[Update: Armie Hammer is Confirmed to play The Lone Ranger! Details HERE.]

In an age where just about every new Hollywood remake, reboot, or re-adaptation is described as going the “gritty” route – regardless of how much sense it makes (see: Zorro Reborn) – it’s kind of a relief to hear that director Gore Verbinski has something more peculiar and whimsical in mind for his Lone Ranger movie. Well, unless you’re a longtime Ranger fan who’s understandably a bit uneasy about this unconventional approach to the character, that is.

Here’s a bit of news that could please Lone Ranger fans and casual moviegoers alike: Armie Hammer in now reportedly in talks to play the titular hero, alongside Johnny Depp as his Native American sidekick, Tonto.

Deadline has the scoop on Hammer, whose career took off last year when he pulled double-duty as the pompous Winklevoss twins in The Social Network. He recently completed work on Clint Eastwood’s Hoover biopic, J. Edgar, and is attached to play the Prince Charming figure in Tarsem Singh’s new Snow White movie as well. Disney wants Lone Ranger to begin filming before the year is out, so Hammer would presumably set to work on it right after completing his role in Singh’s fairy tale project.

Hammer would follow in the footsteps of (most famously) Clayton Moore and (more infamously) Klinton Spilsbury by portraying The Lone Ranger, a masked Texan Ranger that fights for justice in the American Old West. The character has been around in some form since the 1930s, and became a television sensation in the 1950s – with Moore playing the Ranger and Jay Silverheels co-starring as Tonto.

Hammer opposite himself in ‘The Social Network’.

The combination of his robust physical build and charismatic turn in Social Network previously led to Hammer being considered (by casual moviegoers, at least) a worthy candidate to portray another old-fashioned Americana hero, Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. I was personally cool with the idea of him playing the new incarnation of Kal-El; Hammer also has the sort of strong screen presence that would work for a traditional version of The Lone Ranger, methinks.

However, if you’ve been following the development of this project up to now, you know “traditional” isn’t what Verbinski has in mind. He has said in the past that “the only version of ‘The Lone Ranger’ I’m interested in doing is ‘Don Quixote’ told from [his sidekick’s] point of view” – and, as anyone who saw Rango knows, Verbinski very much has his own unique vision about how to make a post-modern western flick.

So does Hammer’s being cast make more or less sense than previously-rumored Lone Ranger candidate Ryan Gosling? Hammer has demonstrated himself capable of playing characters that are kind of pompous and not very self-aware before, so he seems a good fit in that regard. Make of that what you will.

I’m personally kind of interested to see what Verbinski does with Lone Ranger, since I’ve actually enjoyed his previous attempts to be more off-beat and philosophical in films like Rango or the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie – though, admittedly, he’s yet to really pull the act off well. However, I very much understand why fans of The Lone Ranger in his original form aren’t all that pleased about how this new film is shaping up. We’ll just have to wait and see if Verbinski can deliver a film that either offers something for everyone, or just ends up being… well, kind of a failed experiment.

If Disney hits its planned start date for production on Lone Ranger, look for the film to reach theaters in late 2012.

Source: Deadline