Lone Ranger: From 1933 to the Present

From producer Jerry Bruckheimer and 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.

“The Lone Ranger” also stars Primetime Emmy® and Golden Globe Award®–winner Tom Wilkinson (“John Adams”) as nation builder Latham Cole; William Fichtner (“The Dark Knight”) as Tonto and the Lone Ranger’s archenemy Butch Cavendish; Primetime Emmy Award winner Barry Pepper (“The Kennedys”) as military martinet Captain J. Fuller; James Badge Dale (“Iron Man 3”) as Texas Ranger Dan Reid, John’s older brother; Ruth Wilson (“Luther”) as Dan’s wife and John’s former sweetheart, Rebecca Reid; and two-time Oscar® nominee and six-time Golden Globe nominee Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech”) as flamboyant, one-legged saloon owner Red Harrington.

The film is directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski. The screen story is by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio (all four “Pirates of the Caribbean” films) and Justin Haythe (“Revolutionary Road”) and screenplay by Justin Haythe and Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio. The executive producers are Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Johnny Depp, Eric Ellenbogen and Eric McLeod.

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.

Origins: January 30, 1933

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. The concept of the Lone Ranger was thus born and handed off to Fran Striker, a script writer from Buffalo, and the station’s staff director, James Jewell.

Jewell went on to direct “The Lone Ranger” radio series through 1938, by which time it was a national phenomenon. Jewell’s father-in-law owned Kamp Kee-Mo-Sah-Bee in Mullet Lake, Michigan, which became the obvious linguistic inspiration behind Tonto’s name for his friend, the Lone Ranger (Tonto was introduced eleven episodes into the series). It’s believed that the camp was named after an Ojibwe word, “giimoozaabi,” which has been varyingly translated as “trusty scout” or even “someone who does not follow the normal path.” The name Tonto might also derive from another Ojibwe word, “N’da’aanh-too” (pronounced “Nduh-on-toe”) meaning “wild one” or “to change.” Jewell also suggested Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” as the program’s theme music.

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 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.”

Verbinski was interested in directing “The Lone Ranger” only if they could take the classic story and stand it on its ear. “I think if you’re a fan of the original TV series,” Verbinski says, “you’re going to be surprised by the movie, because everybody knows that story, and that’s not the story we’re telling. We’re telling the story from Tonto’s perspective, kind of like ‘Don Quixote,’ told from Sancho Panza’s point of view. I would say that at its core, our version is a buddy story and an action-adventure film with a lot of irony and humor and enough odd singularity to make it distinct.”

To write the fresh take on the legendary tale, the filmmakers hired the brilliant screenwriting team of Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who had also scribed all four of the hugely successful “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, the first three of which were collaborations between Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski, and Justin Haythe, who wrote “Revolutionary Road” for Sam Mendes.

Commenting on the story, producer Jerry Bruckheimer says, “This is the story of how John Reid becomes the Lone Ranger,” adds Bruckheimer, “but in the framework of a ‘dramedy’ between two characters from totally different backgrounds, who are really at odds at the beginning of the story and through the course of their relationship come to a kind of uneasy bonding. Our version has a lot of excitement, adventure, drama, comedy, spectacle and emotion. And because of Gore’s vision, it’s also huge.”

Bruckheimer was thrilled that his “Pirates” partner Gore Verbinski was onboard the “The Lone Ranger.” “Gore is an amazingly talented director, someone who encompasses it all. Sometimes you find a director who does comedy well but can’t do action, or those who can only do action,” says Bruckheimer. “Gore is one of the very few directors who can do everything—action, drama, comedy, animation—with equal brilliance. He’s highly visual and lets nothing stand in his way to create sequences that have never been seen before, and then he somehow finds a way to shoot them to maximum effect.”