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Verbinski gets back into sync with Depp for 'The Lone Ranger'

Published On: Jul 03 2013 05:22:21 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 03 2013 05:28:22 PM CDT
Johhny Depp and Arnie Hammer in 'The Lone Ranger' (inset Gore Verbinski)

Walt Disney Pictures

Johhny Depp and Arnie Hammer in "The Lone Ranger" (inset: Gore Verbinski).

Judging the blockbuster successes of their three "Pirates of the Caribbean" films together and the animated Oscar-winner "Rango," there's no doubt a perfect sort of rhythm going on between director Gore Verbinski and his frequent star Johnny Depp. It's the main reason why the two creatives decided to get back in sync for "Lone Ranger," a big-screen version of the classic radio and TV series that opens in theaters Wednesday.

The interesting thing is, Verbinski said, is that his and Depp's rhythm extends far beyond the screen.

"We play a lot of guitar together, listen to a lot of the same music and knew a lot of the same people when we came to Hollywood," Verbinski told me in a recent interview. "We have a connection that's unique -- we talk in musical metaphors in order to convey an idea that you can't quite articulate in other terms. Sometimes I'll say, this scene is 'BPM (beats per minute). It's more 120 than 85,' and he'll go, 'I got it.' Underneath everything, it's like 'tick, tick, tick.' We do things like that just to modulate the performance."

Depp walks to his own beat again in "The Lone Ranger," this time as Tonto, a lone Cherokee warrior who saves John Reid (Armie Hammer) after a deadly ambush by wanted outlaw Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner). Convinced Reid is a "Spirit Warrior" brought back from the dead, Tonto helps transforms Reid, a man of law, into the Lone Ranger, a legend of justice.

Like Depp, Verbinski, too walks to the beat of his own drummer, which explains why his big-screen tale of "The Lone Ranger" is decidedly different than anything you've heard or seen of the character before. To begin with, unlike the TV series where Tonto (Jay Silverheels) is a sidekick to the Lone Ranger (Clayton Moore), Depp's Tonto is an equal to the famed masked man.

"I'm not really interested in re-telling the same story. I think that exists and you certainly have access to those TV episodes, movies and radio shows," Verbinski explained. "I tried to come at it from a different perspective and tell the story from Tonto's point-of-view. Plus, when you cast somebody like Johnny, you just can't make him a sidekick, you have to make him relevant."

Verbinski said diehard fans of "The Lone Ranger" shouldn't fret, since there are still plenty of things that are left intact.

"We have the Reid brothers, the ambush, Butch Cavendish, the silver bullet, the mask and Silver the horse, and there's some wonderfully iconography that we kept," Verbinski said. "We just slightly changed the origins of it, because you're hearing it from the guy (Tonto) who was there."

Even though Verbinski won an Oscar for directing the animated Western "Rango," he admits it was a tough sell in Hollywood to get a Western made, even though it was based on the iconic character of the Lone Ranger and starred Depp in one of the lead roles.

The good thing is, Verbinski has turned tough sells into gold before, and now that he's seen "The Lone Ranger" through to fruition, here has a novel idea to sustain the popularity of the character -- a ride that's based on the film's spectacular railroad chase scenes.

"The 'Pirate' movies were a tough sell, too, but fortunately we had a ride at the park that they could advertise it with," Verbinski said. "Maybe they could re-invent 'Thunder Mountain' and call it 'Tonto's Torment.'"

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