Oscar-nominee Tom Wilkinson is reportedly in talks to join the cast of Gore Verbinski's Lone Ranger, an adaptation of the classic radio show/TV series about a masked Texas Ranger and his loyal American Indian sidekick, Tonto.
Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp will bring the Ranger and Tonto to life, respectively, in Walt Disney Pictures' adaptation - which is not going the now customary "dark and gritty" route of most upcoming Hollywood projects, but has instead garnered controversy due to Verbinski's plans to tell the Lone Ranger story in an unconventional and more whimsical fashion.
However, before we get to that, it ought to be noted that Wilkinson seems to be in talks to play a villain in Lone Ranger - or, rather, Variety says the actor is up to portray "a railroad tycoon." Going off the history of such characters in the western genre, chances are good the fellow is the film's antagonist.
That sounds all the better, seeing how the talented character actor excels at playing subtly menacing bad guys onscreen. Whether he's portraying a shady political figure (The Ghost Writer), a morally dubious businessman (Cassandra's Dream), or going more mainstream as the street-smart mobster Carmine Falcone in Batman Begins, Wilkinson pretty much always leaves a good impression.
It's been known for a while now that Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road) was working on the script for Verbinski's Lone Ranger adaptation. However, in its scoop on Wilkinson, Variety reports that Pirates of the Caribbean series scribes Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (who worked with Verbinski on the first three films in the swashbuckling franchise) are co-writing the Lone Ranger screenplay with Haythe. Depending on your feelings about the Pirates movies, this could be either be seen as good news or a discouraging sign, with respect to the direction Verbinski is headed in with his Lone Ranger movie.
At their best, Elliott and Rossio are able to strike a balance between witty humor, serious action, and exciting set pieces; however, in his last couple of films, Verbinski has become particularly inclined to try and throw surreal material and overly philosophical subject matter into the mix of what is otherwise standard popcorn entertainment. The results can be very hit or miss - as perhaps best illustrated by the strangely inconsistent tone in the last collaboration between Elliott, Rossio, and Verbinski, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
For a taste of that oddness, check out this scene from At World's End:
The elements are arguably there for Lone Ranger to make for a entertaining adventure movie - what with Hammer as the dashing hero, Depp as the more capable semi-sidekick, Wilkinson as a slimy villain, and a director (Verbinski) who knows how to deliver big action spectacle. Whether or not the final product will be too quirky and off-kilter (or actually work) for most mainstream moviegoers is another matter.
Lone Ranger aims to begin production by the second half of 2011. It will gallop into theaters next year on December 21st, 2012.