It was dubbed one of the longest red carpets ever by revelers at Saturday's world premiere of "The Lone Ranger." One passerby said it made the Academy Awards carpet feel short.
Rolled out at Disney's California Adventure, it was so long, in fact, that by the time guests made it to the end, they looked worn out. Tiny beads of sweat dotted Armie Hammer's hairline as thousands of fans cheered him and other arrivals under the hot Anaheim sun.
"The Lone Ranger" also unspools in staggering heat – in the desert landscapes of the great American West, where the film was shot. "It's heartbreakingly beautiful," says Barry Pepper, who plays Capt. Fuller in the film. "We shot in five different states through Monument Valley, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Moab. … I'm a fly fisherman, so Gore [Verbinski, the film's director] and I would hit the rivers on our days off."
Expected to be one of the summer's biggest blockbusters, and with one of the biggest budgets – a reported $250 million -- "The Lone Ranger" is endeavoring to bring the western back. Originating from a 1930s radio show that became a 1950s television series starring Clayton Moore, the story follows a masked ex-Texas Ranger and his Indian friend, Tonto, who team up to fight injustice.
The 2013 version focuses on the back story of the famous duo: the Lone Ranger (Hammer), who used to be known as lawyer John Reid, and Tonto (Johnny Depp), fighting for revenge on those who ruined his tribe's villages.
"I think we just tried to make him human," Hammer said of recreating a classic character. "The original Lone Ranger was a great hero, but in this one you see him sort of struggle with being a hero."
William Fichtner plays outlaw Butch Cavendish, and Ruth Wilson plays Rebecca Reid, a frontierswoman caught in a love triangle between the Reid brothers.
"She has a universal set of problems," Wilson said of her character. "I really approached the character through the heart and soul of what she was going through. All the other physical, stuff, Gore pretty much created for us anyway. It was sunny, it was hot, and I was wearing a corset."
Shooting a western today benefits from the special-effects technology that has evolved since John Ford was directing John Wayne, but Pepper said "The Lone Ranger" tries to maintain a careful balance of both modern and classic elements.
"It's a blend," the actor said. "There certainly are CGI moments, and they make it a wonderful spectacle for the audience, but what the audience also wants to see is Johnny's face and Armie's face and to see them riding and shooting in those spectacular elements. And that's what Gore believes in, and so he puts his actors in those moments."
The approach certainly resonated with one of the cast's youngest members -- Bryant Prince, who plays young Danny Reid in the film. Asked which of the lead characters he'd want to portray when he gets older, he said:
"I'd want to play Armie [the Lone Ranger] probably, because he gets to do so much stuff! He gets to ride a horse, have a gun, all that stuff that I want to do. Don't get me wrong: I love Tonto, too. But Armie is who I'd rather be."
"The Lone Ranger" opens nationwide over Fourth of July weekend.