You have to give it to Johnny Depp. Today’s UK press conference for the new Disney blockbuster The Lone Ranger (2013) may have featured a stellar collection of Hollywood acting and production talent including, director Gore Verbinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and A-list co-stars Armie Hammer, Ruth Wilson, Tom Wilkinson and Harry Treadaway. However all eyes in the ballroom of London’s Corinthia Hotel were on Depp, one of the closest things modern cinema has to a living legend – an appropriate comparison when you consider who Depp named when asked who his biggest influence has been. “No question about it,” he said, “Marlon Brando was my greatest inspiration. He revolutionised acting. I think a lot of actors would agree that Brando was the best.”
On the subject of legends, one of the biggest questions for Depp was what persuaded him to take on the role of Tonto, the fictional Native American Indian who, along with the Lone Ranged himself, is such an iconic part of American hero culture. “Growing up I always wanted to play the Indian, not the cowboy. Also, having some Indian blood myself, it seemed natural to want to do it. The other biggest thrill being involved in the film allowed me was that it gave me the opportunity to spend time with Native American Indians, getting their perspective on history and their version of what happened to their people. First and foremost we decided that the Native Americans should be treated with dignity. This film gave us the opportunity to right the wrong of how they have been portrayed as savages in history.”
This question of what persuaded them to get involved in the film, was also the hot topic of the afternoon for the other members of the production’s cast and crew.
Hammer (who stars as the Lone Ranger) and Wilson (who plays his love interest, Rebecca) were both clear on why they jumped at the chance when offered their roles. “Ever since I played cowboys and indians as a kid, I always wanted to be an Indian (I even had my own pair of ‘magic’ moccasins)” said Hammer. “So I guessed this was as close as I’d get. I also knew it was going to be fun working with Johnny from the moment we met, which I think has transferred onto the big screen.” Wilson came from the other standpoint. “I grew up with a load of brothers so I was used to getting down and dirty. As a result I always wanted to be the cowboy. I enjoyed the whole process involved with the film. It was all such great fun.”
Treadaway and Wilkinson, who along with Wilson, formed what was a strong English contingent within the cast, also focused on their love of America’s Wild West as one of the main influences for them getting involved in the production. “To get the opportunity to do as an adult, what I played at being as a kid was great,” said Treadaway (who plays a bad boy outlaw called Frank). Wilkinson (who stars as railroad king Latham Cole), agreed. “The western has always been my favourite genre – The Wild Bunch and its director Sam Peckinpah are at the top of my list of favourites. When I was sent the script for this film, I understood it straight away. I love westerns, so I wanted to do the film, no question.”
When asked what attracted him to the idea of the Lone Ranger for a film Verbinski was unequivocal. “The western as a film is a subject all of its own. It hadn’t been visited properly for so many years, and the story of the Lone Ranger himself is so full of iconography. The whole thing was a great opportunity.”
Considering the controversy surrounding the film and its lukewarm reception in America, the obvious closing question to the filmmakers was whether the Lone Ranger and Tonto will return to tame the Wild West again anytime soon? “The reception and reaction to a film are never the same in any two countries,” said Bruckheimer, “so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens when the film opens around the world.” A point Verbinski agreed on. “Any sequels will be up to the audience and of course Disney.” A cryptic response which left the press plenty to ponder on as the assembled talent left on their way to their next round of interviews and premieres.
The night before the cast and crew of The Lone Ranger walked the red carpet in a sun drenched Leicester Square for the films UK Premier, check out the official premier report courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures UK. The Lone Ranger will be released in UK&Irish cinemas from 9th August.