Director Gore Verbinski will have collaborated with Johnny Depp five times over the course of a decade or so by the time the Lone Ranger adaptation arrives in theaters. Their Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy mixed witty wordplay with bits of broad comedy and lots of explosive set pieces, and their upcoming animated western Rango has its tongue pressed even firmer against its cheek.
So it’s not so surprising to hear that the pair’s take on the adventures of the masked Ranger and his companion Tonto (Depp’s role) won’t be too serious either.
The Lone Ranger was originally a 1930s radio program and then a 1950s TV show about a cowboy who’s left for dead by a vicious outlaw, nursed back to health by an American Indian named Tonto, and thereafter teams up with his newfound friend to fight for justice in the Old West. It was originally brought to the big screen in the form of a movie titled The Legend of the Lone Ranger back in 1981, but that version of the western adventure is generally not so well regarded.
Disney has officially dropped the “The” from The Lone Ranger for its adaptation (as Sean Parker might say, “it’s cleaner” :-P), but Verbinski seemingly plans to go much further in terms of messing with the source material. Here’s what he said to Hero Complex on the matter:
“The only version of ‘The Lone Ranger’ I’m interested in doing is ‘Don Quixote’ told from [his sidekick] Sancho Panza’s point of view. And hence I was honest early on with Johnny that Tonto is the part. We’re not going to do it [straight], everyone knows that story. I don’t want to tell that story.”
“I want the version from the untrustworthy narrator who might be a little crazy — but somehow the question is, is he crazy or is the world crazy? That, I find fascinating.”
It became all the more obvious when word broke that Depp would play Tonto in the new Lone Ranger that the character would be more than just a faithful supporting player to the titular hero. Depp, who is actually part Cherokee himself, spoke to EW a few weeks back and his comments (see below) gel with what Verbinski is saying about their new project:
“I always felt Native Americans were badly portrayed in Hollywood films over the decades. It’s a real opportunity for me to give a salute to them. Tonto was a sidekick in all the ‘Lone Ranger’ series. [This film] is a very different approach to that partnership. And a funny one I think.”
Jerry Bruckheimer will also be re-teaming with Verbinski and Depp for Lone Ranger, which will be scripted by Revolutionary Road screenwriter Justin Haythe. While the writer behind that tragic tale about the graphic disintegration of a marriage might not immediately seem a proper fit for a more subversive and sly take on a masked vigilante story, those who actually saw Revolutionary Road may recall that it had a darkly comical bend at times as well.
Couple that with the involvement of the guys who made movies that combined swashbuckling pirate antics with fish people, and it becomes easier to see how Lone Ranger might be a pretty comedic venture in its own right.
It sounds as though Lone Ranger could end up being the closest we ever get to seeing what Terry Gilliam’s abandoned version of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote with Johnny Depp might’ve been like. That alone is reason to be curious about how this project will ultimately pan out.
Look to hear a lot more about Lone Ranger over the next year.