It’s difficult to find a genre William Fichtner can’t perform in or a type of character he cannot play. The seemingly always-working New York native is a king among character actors and in The Lone Ranger he plays what could be described as one of Disney’s most horrifying live-action film villains ever.
In Disney’s Old West epic, Fichtner plays the cannibalistic antagonist Butch Cavendish, and Amy Nicholson had the chance to speak with him about the type of villain that interests him along with the design of the character.
Screen Rant: I heard you were the best horseman and gunslinger on-set – that you were the guy Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp wanted to best. True?
William Fichtner: “I’ll tell you: I will take that compliment seven days a week. Here’s the truth about it. When I stepped off that plane to begin this job, the first thing that Tommy Harper, our stunt coordinator, said was, ‘Listen, to let you know, in two months, you’re going to jump out of a moving train onto a full galloping horse at 20 miles an hour. How are your horse-riding skills?’ I said, ‘Well, I rode one 38 years ago for about 15 minutes, so I think we should get on that pretty soon.’ We did. Listen, if they think I was doing it well, I’m so happy to hear that because I sure tried to do it well. As far as the gunslinging thing, I am so happy that there are two shots in the movie where I take that thing out of the holster with a little bit of flair. I was really happy about that because when I saw the film—listen to me, I’m such a goofball—instead of thinking, ‘How did that scene go?’ I’m more concerned with, ‘Did it look good when I brought out the thing? Did it come out of the holster good?’”
I’m picturing you guys on horses between takes being like, “Wanna race?”
“I think real cowboys have that experience. I’m not sure if we did.”
How much input did you have into the way your character, Butch Cavendish, looks? He’s legitimately horrific.
“He’s got a bit of a strong look, huh? When I spoke to Gore [Verbinski] originally about playing the role—I’d just read the script once—one of the things I said to him was, ‘Gore, I just have this idea that I really don’t want him to look like me.’ Obviously, Gore already knew what [makeup department head] Joel Harlow was thinking about and had worked on for the look of the character. There was a pause and Gore said, ‘I wouldn’t worry about that.’ It definitely doesn’t look like me! I love it. There’s so many things, all the pieces of the puzzle that you put together, that really make a guy real. And I find that a definitive look like that is so strong. When you wrap that together with everything—the character and the costumes—those are all the things that really define who somebody is. Sometimes it’ll give you a feeling, something you can’t quite put a finger on and you don’t really have to. Sometimes you don’t even have to give it a name. But things like that in this production in particular—talk about being surrounded by people at the top of their game, the expertise that was thrown into every character, but in particular for me with Cavendish.”
[Click to Enlarge for full close-up of Fichtner's makeup in The Lone Ranger]
Is it a compliment that people think you look like a great villain?
“Apparently, I’ve been told that Cavendish is the villain of the piece. Now, I don’t know about that, but that’s what I’ve heard.”
Well, you do eat a guy’s heart.
“Little things like that, sure. We could go with that one.”
But just your natural face—you’ve been cast as so many bad guys. What is it like to have casting directors think you look, well, evil?
“I don’t think I look evil. I don’t think my kids think I look evil. I don’t think my wife does. I don’t think that, and you know, I don’t really come from that place. If I thought that playing a character was interesting because he was a villain, I wouldn’t play it. I’m much more interested in what makes a guy tick. A villain for the sake of a villain? I wouldn’t do that. To twirl the mustache and see how you can sneer a little bit differently than the time before? I never think of it that way. Do I think I look like a villain? No. Butch Cavendish is a gunslinger who is at odds with Tonto and the Lone Ranger in The Lone Ranger. I wanna find that guy. I wanna find his game. In the whole wild, wild west, what is it that makes him real? If that is a scary-looking dude, guess what? He’s a scary-looking dude. I think the look that they created and hopefully what I brought to it really fills that out. That’s the goal.”
- Amy’s interview with Armie Hammer for The Lone Ranger.
- Amy’s interview with James Badge Dale for The Lone Ranger.
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The Lone Ranger is currently in theaters.