Johnny Depp's career as a Hollywood A-lister pulling in $20 million a movie could hang on the performance of his next movie, the science-fiction thriller Transcendence.
Following the belly-flop of The Lone Ranger on the heels of other Depp-starring disasters such as The Tourist, The Rum Diaries and Dark Shadows, studio executives are starting to question whether he is worth the money he is being paid.
With a production budget of $215 million before marketing costs, The Disney Co is preparing to take a huge John Carter-sized loss on The Lone Ranger.
Early on Disney pulled the plug on "The Lone Ranger," only to resuscitate it when the budget was reduced from $250 million.
"Disney knew it was a mistake, they knew it was a risk," said Jeff Bice, analyst at Exhibitor Relations. But the lure of Depp's past success with producer Jerry Bruckheimer prevailed. For now Disney is keeping faith with Depp in the hope that he can help recoup their money with the next installment of Pirates of the Caribbean which is due to begin filming soon. The four previous "Pirates" films have generated more than $3.7 billion but observers are wondering whether the fifth episode can still seem fresh and whether Depp bizarre performance as the fey Capt. Jack Sparrow is wearing a bit thin.
And Transcendence, while likely to attract computer geeks and science-fiction fans, could have limited appeal to others, with Depp portraying a computer scientist working with his wife, played by Rebecca Hall,towards a world where computers can transcend the abilities of the human brain.