MOTW: Five Fun Facts about the Training and Filming of "The Lone Ranger"

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
July 4th, 2013

MOTW: Five Fun Facts about the Training and Filming of "The Lone Ranger"

"The Lone Ranger" is one of the newest films from Disney. Like many live-action Disney films, "The Lone Ranger" stars Johnny Depp, a versatile actor who has become synonymous with creative reboots of old classics like "Sweeney Todd," "Dark Shadows," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Alice in Wonderland," and others. Johnny Depp stars as Tonto, a native American spirit warrior who seeks to bring retribution to the men responsible for the destruction of his tribe's villages. He stars alongside Armie Hammer, who takes the role of John Reid, the Lone Ranger himself. The Lone Ranger is a lawyer who uses a mask to protect his identity as he seeks to find those who were responsible for the death of his brother. Together, Depp and Reid bring this beloved western franchise back into the spotlight.

Many scenes in "The Lone Ranger" were filmed in front of a green screen, which lets the special effects department place the characters in whatever setting they choose. This is especially helpful for certain stunt scenes and computer-generated action shots that would not be possible to execute using traditional filming styles. However, one of the most iconic scenes in the film, the train scene, was filmed in real time. According to the film's director, Gore Verbinski, one of these train scenes is "the biggest train sequence in film history." Instead of being filmed in front of the green screen, the actors stood atop a real train hurtling across the New Mexico desert in almost unbearable heat.

During filming, the winds in Rio Puerco, New Mexico, were so strong that the cast and crew called it "The Devil's Sandbox." Gusts of wind blasted everyone on the set with so much sand and dust that everyone had to wear bandanas, goggles, and scarves for protection during these desert windstorms. This delayed filming multiple times. Since the sets for the artificial towns of Promontory Summit and Colby were located in Rio Puerco, the crew had no choice but to continue filming in spite of the windstorms. Even though they were wearing protective gear, many crew members suffered from abrasions and scratches caused by the sand, and everything was consistently covered in a layer of dust.

The actors and crew were consistently tested by the environments they filmed in, and everyone involved in the making of the film had to go through extensive training to learn how to manage heat stroke and heat exhaustion to prevent accidents and illnesses during production. Several high-altitude locations, including the famed ski resort at Angel Fire, New Mexico, truly tested the endurance of the team. Fortunately, their determination paid off. Thanks to filming at authentic western locations instead of fully relying on green screens, "The Lone Ranger" has been hailed as an authentic, convincing film that makes you feel like you are right there with Tonto and Reid.

During one of several incredible action sequences involving trains, The Lone Ranger rides his magnificent horse, Silver, through a crowded railroad passenger car as he fires his six-shooter from Silver's back. During this scene, Tommy Harper, the stunt coordinator for "The Lone Ranger," recruited stunt legends like Hal Burton, Randy Hice, Mic Rodgers, Terry Leonard, Mike Runyard, Lisa Hoyle, and Donna Evans to help with the scene. It was one of the most dangerous scenes in the film, but the crew pulled it off with the guidance of these stunt legends.

When filming was finished, the crew behind "The Lone Ranger" calculated that the film had three pre-shoot days, four-and-a-half months of prep, one hundred and fifty shooting days, thirty-one weeks of almost nonstop filming in many excruciatingly hot western states, over three thousand camera steps, over a thousand hours of shooting, and well over one million hours of total work. The process left the crew completely exhausted, and Johnny Depp said it was one of the most difficult acting gigs he had ever done. In fact, he nearly died when his saddle came loose while his horse was clearing several obstacles.

"The Lone Ranger" is a powerful testament to old western films, a remarkable feat of dedication from the cast and crew, and a loyal adaptation of one of the most beloved wild west stories in the United States. These fun facts are a mere shadow of how difficult it was to produce this film, especially when so many loyal fans of the original series had such high expectations. Fortunately, everything paid off, and "The Lone Ranger" has been hailed by critics as an entertaining wild ride.