Johnny Depp & Armie Hammer Interview For ‘The Lone Ranger’
Native American warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice. Alongside Depp and Hammer, the likes of Ruth Wilson, William Fichtner, Helena Bonham Carter, James Badge Dale, Barry Pepper, Tom Wilkinson and James Frain also star. The film, which takes place in 1869, is directed by Gore Verbinski for Walt Disney Pictures/Jerry Bruckheimer Films. ‘The Lone Ranger’ marks Verbrinski and Depp’s fifth collaboration after the first trio of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movies and the Oscar-winning ‘Rango.’ ‘The Lone Ranger’ has been pencilled in for a July 3rd release in the US and a August 9th release in the UK.
The big question on many peoples minds is your choice to play Tonto here. Can you talk about what led you to it?
Johnny Depp: I had a great mentor-father-friend in Marlon Brando, and he was pretty keen on this issue. Throughout the history of cinema, the Native American has been portrayed as a savage or as something lesser than whites. It was important to me to at least take a good shot at erasing that. I remember watching the black-and-white Lone Ranger series as a kid, with Clayton Moore and the great Jay Silverheels. And as a very young child, I was always bothered by the idea of Tonto being a sidekick. That just didn’t register properly in my head. That’s no disrespect to anybody at all, certainly not Jay Silverheels, but I just thought this project was potentially an opportunity to right the wrong. I think it’s great that Tonto makes the Lone Ranger. It feels right, finally.
You do that in a way that’s uniquely you in this film, the same way you approached pirates with Jack Sparrow…
Johnny Depp: My hope was to almost embrace the cliché, so that it’s recognized by people who have been conditioned to how Native Americans have been represented in film. And then, having done that, to kind of turn it on its ear. Suck them in, and then switch them around, and then take them on a different path. So in a way, I had to embrace what is deemed as cliché for Tonto. It was tricky, because you have that speech pattern, which is awful and hurtful to so many people. And then you find a way to explode it and reveal it for the sham that it is. That’s what I tried to do and what I hope we accomplish here.
The Native Americans in America are pretty extraordinary. After everything they’ve been through – after generation after generation after generation of what their ancestors have been through – they have come out of it still holding onto their heritage and their culture. And they work to keep it alive: that heritage, their language, their traditions. They are warriors in the truest sense of the word.
Armie, can you recall your initial reaction to landing the iconic role of the Lone Ranger? Plus, was there particular characteristic in him that you found especially appealing?
Armie Hammer: The first thing I thought was that somebody probably called the wrong phone number (laughs). But once I got past that I was totally elated, I was thrilled. More than anything I was excited to get to work with Gore Verbinski , Jerry Bruckheimer, Johnny Depp and everyone at Disney to make this movie. It felt like an incredible opportunity. Everyone involved is at the top of their game, the cast and the crew. I’m convinced I’ve hit the pinnacle in terms of experiences while making a movie. This was the best crew I have ever worked with, best actors, best everything, and we shot in the most amazing locations.
I’d say one of the most appealing things about the Lone Ranger is his sort of moral barometer. He’s a guy who makes the right decision, not because he’s forced to… he’s truly out in the middle of nowhere, he can do whatever he wants, but he does the right thing because it is in fact just the right thing to do. It’s good to be reminded that those morals exist and that there’s heroes out there.
The production on this film lasted over six months and was shot throughout much of the American South West. What did you find the most challenging about shooting ‘The Lone Ranger’?
Armie Hammer: Honestly, most of the hard work was done for us. Jerry and Johnny had been working on this movie since 2006 and Gore had joined it not long after. ‘The Lone Ranger’ is something they’ve been working on for so long that for me when I showed up it was more about bringing this script to life. We filmed all over the American South West. We filmed in Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and California. It was great because we got to see so much of the country, and so much of the country that is just untouched. I can’t think of any shots in the movie where they had to scrub power-lines out or a road (laughs). We were really out there in the middle of nowhere. It was great to see such untouched land like that.
And how did you find working with Johnny during that time?
Armie Hammer: Johnny is maybe the easiest dude to work with in the entire world, and that only helped our relationship. A big part of the movie was how the Lone Ranger and Tonto deal with each other and the humor within. Johnny’s such a funny guy and an easy guy to work with, he’s also such a consummate professional. It was so easy working with Johnny. Plus, we were basically stuck in the middle of the desert together for six months making the movie, we were in no way strangers by the time filming finished (laughs).
Johnny, how do you address concerns that it’s not appropriate for you to play Tonto… that it’s essentially black face?
Johnny Depp: There was always that fear, and there’s going to be that criticism. And it’s okay. I expected it. But as long as I know that I have done no harm, and represented – at the very least – the Comanche Nation in a proper light, I’m satisfied. There’s always gonna be naysayers. Everybody’s got an opinion, man. I know that I approached it in the right way, and that’s all I can do, you know? One of the things that Gore and I talked about early on is that Tonto is a band apart. He’s dealing with a lot of shame; he feels like he’s visited a terrible evil upon his people. And he goes out on his own to avenge that… and in the process try to heal that pain: a pain that could, in many ways, never be healed. It’s a monumental task. It can never really be accomplished. But out he goes, like Don Quixote, to get it done. It makes him very interesting to play.
We hear you did some camping and met with Native Americans during the shoot. How was it and did you smoke the peace pipe?
Johnny Depp: I do smoke the peace pipe as often as possible because I like peace (laughs). I won’t give you the symbol because I don’t believe in that horrible gesture. The culture of the Comanche, for example, and not just being welcomed as a part of the Nation but really being adopted and what that means and what it’s meant since that day, it’s given me so much in my life. I’m not a particularly spiritual person. The only church that I’ve ever seen that makes sense to me is the sweat lodge. I think they were on the right track for a long time and we all missed it.
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