It's definitely been an excellent twelve months for Armie Hammer. Over the past year he's gone from relative obscurity to being hailed for his dual performance as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, to landing starring gigs in projects like Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, Tarsem Singh's Snow White movie - and now, Gore Verbinski's Lone Ranger.
Hammer was said to be in talks to play the titular Old West hero in Verbinski's new film a few weeks back; now, he has reportedly secured a deal to star as the iconic mask-wearing Texas ranger.
Johnny Depp has been associated with the Lone Ranger movie since 2008, but (as Variety pointed out in its report on Hammer) many a person was quick to assume that meant he would be the one playing the Ranger character, following in the footsteps of actors like Clayton Moore and Klinton Spilsbury. However, Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean leading man will actually step into the role of American Indian Tonto for the new cinematic incarnation of The Lone Ranger.
Those who have been following this Ranger project know that Verbinski, screenwriter Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road), and producer Jerry Bruckheimer are not planning a conventional Lone Ranger adaptation - or even one that's more gritty and dark, in current Hollywood fashion.
Here's what Verbinski has previously said on the topic of Lone Ranger:
“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 [Depp] 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.”
Both Depp and Hammer seem to be nice fits for their respective parts in Verbinski's Lone Ranger, with Depp playing what sounds like a quirkier take on the archetypal sidekick (shocking, we know) and Hammer starring as a gallant cowboy who's (put mildly) lacking in the area of self-awareness. But will those versions of the Ranger and Tonto character fly so well with casual moviegoers and longtime Lone Ranger fans?
Verbinski and Depp have once again achieved box office success with their currently-playing warped animated take on the western genre, Rango, but Lone Ranger might not go down so well with most moviegoers. A CGI film that mixes brazen adult humor and postmodern riffs on the conventional western with a cast of anthropomorphic animals is one thing (take a moment to marinate on that description); however, a live-action adaptation of a beloved American icon that is done in a similar vein might just seem too weird for mainstream audiences.
The combined might of Verbinski, Depp, and Bruckheimer pretty much assures that Lone Ranger won't fall flat on its face at the box office, though - and chances are good that Disney will focus on marketing the film as a big-budget, action-packed treatment of the classic western story. That would be a bait-and-switch approach to selling Lone Ranger on the part of the Mouse House, but it wouldn't exactly be a totally unprecedented move either...
Lone Ranger is slated to begin production this fall and could make its way to theaters by late 2012.