From producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Academy Award winning director Gore Verbinski, the filmmaking team behind the blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, comes Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ “The Lone Ranger,” a thrilling adventure infused with action and humor, in which the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes.
Native American warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice—taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.
Eighty years after they first rode into the public’s imagination, the classic characters of the Lone Ranger and Tonto remain enduring fixtures of the American cultural landscape. “There’s something about these characters that have appealed to every generation since they were invented,” notes producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “I grew up in Detroit, and ‘The Lone Ranger’ radio and TV shows were part of my youth, and millions of others as well.” On radio, television, theater screens, TV animation, comic strips, books, graphic novels, and video games, the perpetual popularity of these iconic American characters represents a continuum that confirms the continuity of the public’s fascination with them.
The program first made its way onto the airwaves courtesy of WXYZ radio in Detroit, Michigan, on January 30, 1933. The station owner, George W. Trendle, wanted a Western that would appeal to a children’s audience. The character he created was wholesome, honest and an authority figure kids could admire.
There were 2,956 radio episodes of “The Lone Ranger” (the last new one was broadcast on September 3, 1954), a 21-year history that actually overlapped the hugely successful television series, starring stalwart Clayton Moore as the titular character and dignified Jay Silverheels as Tonto. This program, which became an international phenomenon, began airing on ABC in 1949 and continued until 1957.
The huge popularity of the show also spun off into two theatrical feature films, “The Lone Ranger” (1956) and “The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold” (1958).
But now it’s time for Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer to put their own indelible stamps on Tonto and the Lone Ranger. As they respect some traditions established over the past eight decades, they also fearlessly interpret the characters for an entirely new generation.
As with many ambitious projects, there was a long and winding road to bring the new version of “The Lone Ranger” to fruition. But neither producer Jerry Bruckheimer nor director Gore Verbinski are men to be easily dissuaded once their hearts and minds are focused. “We knew that it was time for ‘The Lone Ranger’ and westerns to be reborn,” says Bruckheimer, “just as Gore and I knew that it was time for pirate movies to be resurrected when we first developed ‘Pirates of the Caribbean for the screen a decade ago. There’s a reason why people have relished these characters and genres for decades, and we knew that if we re-introduced them in a fresh and exciting way, they would fall in love with them all over again.”
A new cast for a new generation
Johnny Depp’s interest in playing Tonto in “The Lone Ranger” developed early on when it was just germinating as an idea with Jerry Bruckheimer. Depp, in typical fashion, figured that the best way to get the ball rolling would be to get into character as Tonto. He enlisted the help of two close friends—makeup artist Joel Harlow and photographer Peter Mountain—and set about creating his distinctive version of how Tonto would look in the hope that it would convince Bruckheimer and the studio, Disney, to give it the green light.
Depp is, of course, a master of disguise and a brilliant character actor as well as one of Hollywood’s best-loved leading men. He based his ‘look’ for Tonto on a painting he’d seen of a Native American warrior and added his own, unique, flourishes.
Depp had definite thoughts how he wanted the character of Tonto to be portrayed. He remembers watching repeats of the TV show when he was a boy and promises that his Tonto will be an equal partner—and certainly not a sidekick—to the Lone Ranger and honor the noble, warrior tradition of his Native American heritage.
With Johnny Depp already cast as Tonto, the filmmakers searched for the perfect John Reid aka The Lone Ranger. It soon became apparent to Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski that the much sought-after role of the Lone Ranger was custom built for a young, impossibly talented and equally good-looking actor named Armie Hammer. Having already made a notable mark in Hollywood with his performance as the Winklevoss twins in David Fincher’s “The Social Network” and starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar,” Bruckheimer and Verbinski snagged him for “The Lone Ranger” at just the right moment.
Describing Armie Hammer, director Verbinski says, “When you meet Armie, you soon realize that he doesn’t have a cynical or jaded bone in his body. Armie has a great optimism in the way he looks at the world. We really needed someone you could believe would have old-fashioned ideas.”
Johnny Depp, talking about his experience working with Hammer, says, “First and foremost, Armie is a great guy. He’s very smart, very quick and clever with a great wit and he’s super talented. He committed to playing the Lone Ranger as an earnest, naïve, ‘white man’—and that’s exactly right.
The Lone Ranger opens in cinemas July 4
Images courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Singapore
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