Disney's attempt at launching another major film franchise - this one set in the Old West - begins this week, and to help launch it they've brought in Disney regular and Pirates of the Caribbean poster boy Johnny Depp. Depp co-stars alongside Armie Hammer who throws on the mask as the titular hero of The Lone Ranger and plans to for the long haul for Disney with a multi-picture contract.
At Disney's press junket for The Lone Ranger, Amy Nicholson had the chance to speak with Hammer about his biggest film to date. The conversation touched on mask design; being a cowboy; his height and horse selection; dealing with morals as a vigilante and visiting the set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The Lone Ranger is a spirit walker who can't be killed by his fellow man. Does that mean he's a superhero?
"No, and I'll tell you why. He's a hero, for sure—you can't take that away from him. But to me, the connotation of a superhero is a guy who doesn't have to sleep, doesn't have to eat, doesn't have to think about it. He's just The Superhero. He doesn't have a choice. He just has these powers that he uses for good. He has the choice of whether to use them for good or evil, but he's has powers. The Lone Ranger is just a man. He's an attorney, just a guy who realizes the right thing isn't going on, and he's going to try to do something about it even though he might get hit in the face—and I really hate getting hit in the face. But he's still going to do it. And it's still going to hurt, but he's going to do it because it's the right thing. So he's not a superhero, but he's definitely a hero."
So he's bringing the humanity back to action heroes.
"Yeah. And it's nice to see an action hero who struggles with his own morality. I think it makes it much more relatable than just an unstoppable force."
There's a line in the script: “Good men wear masks.” That's very Batman-esque.
"Well, Batman's got a cowl. So I don't know if it's separate."
That's kind of splitting hairs.
"Yeah, yeah, maybe it is. Yes, it is similar to what's going on in Batman. It's very similar right now to what's going on politically. Sometimes if you're a good person who stands up and say something that bad people are doing, you make more enemies than you do friends. I think it's pretty common that people have to wear masks. That's why we have laws like the Whistleblower Act, so that you can wear a mask if you're being a good guy."
There's also an innocence to the Lone Ranger. He's just a Good Person. In a way, that feels a little out-of-step with how our heroes are today—it's the Superman problem.
"I think that's the good part about this guy's character—he's just a nice guy. He goes from being the good guy who wants to exercise due process, to the good guy who will do whatever it takes to see justice."
Was there ever talk of making him darker?
"No, not really. It was such a specific tone that we were going for for the whole thing that in the beginning, he feels almost like Jimmy Stewart. Just, like, the nicest dude in the world—I couldn't break a grape in a food fight. And then you see him evolve and become the Lone Ranger."
You're from Texas. How cowboy were you when you started?
"Thirty-five to sixty percent. Depending on how much I'd like to be. It's by choice."
How does the mask stay on? It looks very flimsy.
"It's actually not flimsy. It's got plastic underneath it—vacuum-formed plastic made to fit my face. And then they put leather on top, so the upper part of the mask doesn't move at all once you tie it on. And then there's just a strap in the back."
When you're 6'5”, how hard is it to find a horse that fits you?
"It's difficult. Especially because I'm 6'5” and my legs are really long, so if I don't get a horse who's actually tall, then it just looks like I'm riding a pony."
There were some moments in the film where it looked like you almost couldn't fit through some of the old-timey train cars and doorways.
"I definitely hit my head on a lot of stuff. Because I had the hat, too, and the mask, so there's not a lot of peripheral vision. There was a lot of, 'Crash! Aah! Son-of-a-bitch!'"
Being much taller than most leading men in Hollywood, is that a problem when you're acting against somebody shorter who isn't used to looking that short?
"Only if they have a complex. I'm fine with it."
Well, you would be fine with it.
"Yeah. So it's not really a problem for me. And you know who's not a problem about it at all? Johnny [Depp who is 5'10”]. God bless him. To that guy's credit, never once at any point was there like a, 'Can I get a box to stand on?' or a 'Could you dig a hole for him?' None of it. If anything, he always just appreciated that Gore [Verbinski] would say, 'You stand there and Armie, you stand there—wait, no, can you switch sides?' And Johnny would say, 'What! Are you saying I'm short?!' That became the go-to joke. Very funny."
Is the height difference why Tom Cruise didn't want to do Man From U.N.C.L.E.?
"No! We screen-tested him and we did several scenes together, so no, I don't think that was the real reason."
So now that Henry Cavill is announced to take Cruise's place, have you checked him out in Man of Steel?
"No! I tried to see it last weekend and I couldn't get tickets."
"Yeah, in LA. The Arclight."
You didn't just barge up to the counter and say, 'Do you know who I am?'
"I think they'd go, 'What! That's a made-up name. That's not going to work.'"