Here’s a twist for you: Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter now look to appear together in a film that is NOT being directed by Tim Burton. Instead, it’ll be helmed by another fellow Depp has a good working relationship with (Gore Verbinski), on Disney’s Lone Ranger.
Carter is currently in talks to sign on for Lone Ranger, as are two actors familiar with the western genre (in a good way): actor Barry Pepper (True Grit) and actor/musician Dwight Yoakam (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada).
Depp is the big selling point for Lone Ranger, where he’ll play the Ranger’s capable American Indian sidekick, Tonto. Armie Hammer is also onboard as the main hero, who is reportedly being refashioned as a possibly-insane Don Quixote figure by Verbinski, screenwriter Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road), and co-writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (the Pirates of the Caribbean series).
According to Variety, Yoakam is up to appear as the villainous Butch Cavendish. According to traditional Lone Ranger lore, Cavendish’s gang of outlaws ambushed and killed a pack of Texas Rangers – save for one fellow (Hammer) who was rescued by Tonto (Depp) and would go on to become the famous masked vigilante of the Old West.
Pepper is in line to star in Lone Ranger as Captain J. Fuller, leader of the seventh cavalry, while Carter could appear as the “colorful” madam of a brothel. Also onboard for the film are Tom Wilkinson as a (possibly evil) railroad tycoon and Ruth Wilson as the film’s female lead.
Despite having accrued a solid cast for his next big-budget venture, Verbinski’s plans for a revisionist take on the Lone Ranger mythos already has a lot of fans up in arms. Even though there’s something refreshing about the director’s idea of what sounds like a quirky and whimsical take on the Ranger story (as opposed to the now standard “dark and gritty” approach), the idea of the main hero being presented not as a noble and idealistic figure, but instead a possibly delusional cowboy, has not seemed all that appealing to most longtime fans of the Lone Ranger. To use a timely analogy: Think of what the outcry from comic book fans would’ve been, had Joe Johnston decided to present Steve Rogers as someone who maybe only imagined he had super-human abilities in Captain America.
Will that unorthodox approach to the Lone Ranger’s story ultimately work for Verbinski? It’s a variation on what he attempted to do with the main character in Rango, though that film wasn’t laden with a pre-established history. Not to mention, more moviegoers were willing to accept that sort of off-beat protagonist in an animated western that featured (among other things) an owl mariachi band and Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” as a golf cart-riding spirit – as opposed to a Lone Ranger movie. Still, best to just wait and see how it all eventually pans out, for now.
Lone Ranger is slated to arrive in U.S. theaters on December 21st, 2012.