"At the very least, I'm one of the lucky ones, since I don't have to wear a shirt," said Depp, who plays a reimagined version of Tonto that defies the standard sidekick expectations in the film that arrives in theaters on July 3 as the most expensive Hollywood western ever made. "Tonto is the smart one when it comes to keeping cool," Depp added.
By any measure, Tonto is far more wily than John Reid, the by-the-book lawman who has a masked destiny as the film's title character awaiting him on the dusty frontier. Reid is played by
The garrulous Hammer says he marvels at Depp's talent and, fresh from a scuffle scene with his costar, laughed out loud when asked whether there were any parallels between the pair's relationship on-screen and off.
"It's very similar to our characters, because we are stuck together by fate," Hammer said, squinting through sweat and the pale dust that coated the entire set. "We are less like our characters in that we're just having a great time together."
The two look like they're having fun while filming a tussle that leaves Hammer's character dazed and flat on his back in the scrub while Depp's Tonto marches off into the desert beneath the stuffed crow that he wears atop his head like a winged, ebony crown. As Depp shook his head with amused admiration, his young costar moaned from the desert floor. "I think," Hammer said, "I did something to my cortex."
In many ways, this new project flies under the same flag as Depp's "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. It reunites the actor with director
For the producer, the mythology of the Lone Ranger — the silver bullets, the Rossini theme song, the white steed, the call of "Hi-yo, Silver!" — was a hometown heritage. Bruckheimer hails from Detroit, and so does the masked man. The Old West, it turns out, was located over on East Jefferson Avenue, where WXYZ-AM launched
"I was like every kid with the six-shooters and playing cowboys and Indians, and now here we are, the biggest game of cowboys and Indians you could have," Bruckheimer said as he walked toward one of the film's major expenses — an eight-mile stretch of new railroad, two locomotives and a row of meticulously manufactured train cars.
And, yes, there's a major train wreck in the film. That fact will tantalize Hollywood pundits who pounced on the project in 2011 when Rich Ross, then the chief of
Will the wisdom of the trio prove right again? Bruckheimer thinks the film is a sure bet.
"This is a great summer movie, with classic characters and a new story with a lot of gravitas," he said. "And we have one of the biggest movie stars in the world with Johnny and a star-in-the-making with Armie. And this is a very different version of this story."
Indeed, the script by Justin Haythe (
"We were focused more on the true Native American aspect instead of interpreting this artificial version that was a mash-up of make believe and [stereotypes]," Depp said, "and that became the way they've been represented in film for 100 years or more."
Despite the unlined face, Depp turns 50 a few weeks before "The Lone Ranger" hits theaters. That milestone and the tepid commercial success of his last film,
Depp was too possessed by the moment and the promise of the journey. "The desert doesn't even notice us, we aren't here long enough," he said, sounding sage and centered despite the black bird sprouting from his head. "It's the ride, that's the fun part."