Lone Ranger (2013): Starring Johnny Depp

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.

The result was spectacular and it convinced Bruckheimer—and Disney Studios— that it was time for “The Lone Ranger” and Tonto to ride back onto the screen.

As producer Jerry Bruckheimer relates, “Johnny Depp creates amazing characters, no matter what movie he’s in. His Tonto will be different than any Tonto you’ve ever seen before. He has a whole different look, a whole different feel. We don’t even know until the cameras roll what he’s going to do, but we know it’s going to be entertaining and very interesting.”

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.

“The Lone Ranger’ was just one of those sort of regular things that you would see on television as a kid. I watched it and I always identified with Tonto,” he says. “And even as a kid I wondered why the Indian was the sidekick.

“And it wasn’t that ‘The Lone Ranger’ was overtly disrespectful in the way he treated Tonto but I just thought, ‘why is he the guy that has to go and do this and that? Why isn’t he the hero?’ So that was something that was always on my mind. And I was told at a very young age that we have some Indian blood in our family…who knows how much—maybe very little, I don’t know.

“So what I wanted to do was play this character not as the sidekick to the Lone Ranger. I wanted to play him as a warrior and as a man with great integrity and dignity. It’s my small sliver of a contribution to try and right the wrongs that have been committed in the past.”

With Johnny Depp 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.

“Armie is a young actor coming up the ranks and he looks like a classic movie star and what’s more, he has the chops to back it up,” continues Depp. “So he fully committed to this role—he played it perfectly, he got the humor, and he didn’t want to play it as the ‘cool guy’ as it were. I found him a dream to work with and I feel like I’ve made a really good friend in Armie.”