"The Lone Ranger": A Shiny New Take on a Classic

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
December 24th, 2012

"The Lone Ranger": A Shiny New Take on a Classic

-- Although "The Lone Ranger" comes to the big screen no sooner than summer of 2013, potential audiences will have plenty of trailers to peek into the anticipated Disney film. The creative team behind the successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and the Oscar-winning "Rango" are on board for this remake featuring the beloved Western classic television character and his world. Gore Verbinksi is the director, and Jerry Bruckheimer is the film's producer. Johnny Depp, who portrayed the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean," plays the role of Native American shaman Tonto. Armie Hammer is portraying John Reid, otherwise known as the Lone Ranger.

Twenty-four-year-old Hammer is known for his previous work in "The Social Network," in which he played the Winklevoss twins. He has also appeared in Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar." In The Lone Ranger," his character, John Reid, takes a hero's journey. Believed by his enemies to be dead, he starts to wear a mask and becomes a man of justice outside of the law. Although the mysterious lawman is referred to as the Lone Ranger, in reality, he is not alone, always having Tonto by his side.

Hammer told the media that he remembered exactly when he first wore the trademark of the masked man. As he was fitting costumes, a costume designer handed him a leather mask and asked him to try it. When he put it on and looked into a mirror, he thought it was definitely the Lone Ranger mask and felt privileged to be able to wear it. He actually had a lot of discussion with the filmmakers about the design of the mask. They did not want an exact replica of the original television series mask, and many ideas about the design and material of the mask were considered. It took ten different designs and seven fittings before they finally settled on the perfect mask-one that did not scream Zorro or superhero-which was to be made of leather to go with Hammer's white hat and piercing eyes. In addition, it was custom molded and fitted to Hammer's face.

One of the most noticeable deviations the film will take from the iconic series involves Tonto's character. In the 50's television show, Tonto was merely the sidekick of the Lone Ranger. The ever-immersive Depp gave serious thought to the character of Tonto and the ways in which he could mold it in order to portray a more balanced relationship between the two lead characters. He wanted to kick the stereotypical cinema ideas about Native Americans to the dustbins of history. However, Depp's casting in the part set off a round of controversy.

The initial sketches and drawings of Tonto's costume were not very helpful because they appeared to be as artsy and eccentric that of Jack Sparrow's appearance. In his final ensemble, Depp's character dons full body paint and a crow headpiece. Depp's inspiration for this costume, it seems, came from artist Kirby Sattler's "I Am Crow," and Depp claims Cherokee or Creek Indian ancestry, but some doubt that. He has been chided for going red face, going back to the days when white men would blacken their faces to perform in minstrel shows. Support has also been given to him, including the Navajo Nation's. Hammer also added some support to Depp's portrayal and the film's plot, explaining that both Reid and Tonto were two men from very different worlds. However, they found their paths crossed, and they learned to travel the road together.

Both actors had to learn some real-life cowboy skills, including horseback riding. In fact, Hammer had to master dismounting his horse, Silver, at a full gallop. There were no stuntmen to do the hard work. Depp has been known to be quite the method actor-not quite on the Daniel Day-Lewis level, but meticulous enough to achieve the desired outcomes. For this film, he mastered riding horses bareback and undertook a full study of Comanche customs and culture.

Tonto acts as the film's narrator, telling the story of the events as he lived them. Filmed in the desert of New Mexico, the sets bring to life a realistic representation of the Old West time. In addition to Western culture, the film explores Native shamanism, which relied heavily on spirit animals such as wolves. The film's music was set to be scored by rocker Jack White, but he had to resign because of scheduling conflicts, leaving the task to veteran Han Zimmer. With two excellent actors and an all-star creative team, "The Lone Ranger" is sure to breathe new life into the old franchise.