The Lone Ranger It is a film of many distinctions; unfortunately, most of them are not particularly good. A clever reinvention of the classic Western hero, the film reunited Disney with Johnny depp and director Gore verbinski after the great success of Verbinski pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, another surprise hit in an equally forgotten genre. Despite the excellent production design and some exciting action sequences, The Lone RangerThe inconsistent tone (plus a runaway budget and a misinterpreted Depp) led to a tepid reception that resulted in a box office flop, and the film quickly became another warning about blockbuster film production. There is also a long-standing rumor surrounding the film that has since become a Hollywood legend, suggesting that a first draft of the script caused the Lone Ranger and Tonto meet real werewolves.
Verbinski recently spoke with Collider’s Steve Weintraub in an in-depth interview about his impressive career, The Lone Ranger included. The director shared some details about the film’s long history of development at Disney, beginning as an idle conversation between Verbinski and Pirates producer Jerry bruckheimer and ending up in the hands of Pirates scribes Terry rossio and Ted elliott. Verbinski analyzed part of the process while emphasizing that the werewolf thing was definitely not his idea:
“Let me see if I can remember this correctly. So we were doing Pirates 2, and Jerry said Terry Rossio and Ted wanted Jerry to buy the rights to The Lone Ranger. I said, right away, ‘Johnny should play Tonto.’ I blurted out. I was like, ‘Lone Ranger, Johnny, Tonto.’ My mind immediately went, tell Tonto’s story, because the Lone Ranger story has been told so many times. I’m going to talk to Johnny about it on his boat. I think it was Pirates 3 maybe. He said, ‘I like that idea. I think Jerry thought Johnny was saying he wanted to play the Lone Ranger or something. But in Jerry’s mind, now there is the cast. Johnny is interested in that point. ”
But Verbinski says that at that point, he left the project and development continued without him, which is where those werewolves come in:
“So Jerry got the rights, and then what happened? I dissociated myself. Rossio and Elliot threw me a version that I didn’t really respond to. But I was like, ‘I wish you well. I love those guys. So they went and worked on it. I did Rank. It came back like four years later, where Jerry had said, ‘Do you want to go back?’ I said, ‘Well, I’d like to do the version I was originally thinking of.’ Somewhere in the meantime, without me involved there was a werewolf, that’s where the werewolf thing came from. But I never read that draft … So that was some other dead end. It wasn’t part of my world at all. Then by the time he came back … I think they had exhausted the other path. It was Johnny who called me and said, ‘Can you come back?’ And he had sent me a picture of him with Tonto’s makeup and the bird on his head. And then I pitched my original idea to Justin Haythe and we started working on the script. ”
Verbinski also further broke down his approach to telling the story from Tonto’s perspective, and how the idea of the film ending with Tonto’s narration was an early and indispensable part of his speech. Finally, Verbinski explained the great impact that the deconstructionist Western films he saw as a child had on his film career, and how their influence can be felt in The Lone Ranger, Rank, Y pirates of the Caribbean:
COLLIDER: At the beginning of Lone Ranger you have Tonto in the museum and then again at the end. I’m curious, was that always the idea … of having him in the museum as a storyteller? Can you talk about how you came up with that structure for the movie? Was it ever going to be something else?
VERBINSKI: No. That was a central point of my original speech, for Tonto to tell us the story. We have all heard the story of the lone ranger. But you’ve never heard it from Tonto’s perspective. That was the opportunity to reinvent it. So that was critical to getting me involved again, this is how I would do it. It’s not like Rossio and Elliott wanted to do it. And it was really, frankly, they were the ones that brought it in, they said, we love this movie. We want to achieve it. They had some ideas and they tried, and I had a different perspective from the beginning. So, that was always there.
I must say that I grew up watching Peckinpah and Leone movies before studying the genre. So my entry point was always the postmodern western before I knew what it was about. The end of the gunslinger, there is no place for honest thieves in a corrupt world. They were always morally ambiguous characters in those movies. And then then I saw John wayne movies and studied Howard hawks and John Ford and all that. So that idea that the future is coming, be it the railroad, be it the East India Trading Company, is there in Rank, the inevitability of the future and what happens to the gunman or Captain Jack or any of these characters when they face progress. And because of Tonto’s perspective, it’s in The Lone Ranger quite openly.
When these guys in the 60s and early 70s started messing with the genre and walked away, what happens to the guy on the horse when the car arrives? That is what fascinates me, that collapse of some bubble or balloon or belief system. I think that’s really when you are forced to see things differently. And that’s when everything changes for you. You turn everything around, you see, it’s when a kid sees the gum under the table. Basically, it’s a different point of view …
I grew up, again in those formative years, with Monty Python, Black Sabbath and Kafka. My sister gave me Metamorphosis When I was 11 years old. There is something that happens in that prepubertal stage that I think stays with you forever. It sure is a strange collection of forces. But when you make a movie, you often need to tap into your inner child to find something honest. And I guess they’re still there. ”
Verbinski’s love for deconstruction of myths led to some interesting choices in The Lone Ranger, even though one of those options was definitely not a werewolf. Hopefully, you’ll get a taste of the Western genre again, which could use a shot of the same flashy and fun adrenaline you gave to the once-radioactive pirate genre.
KEEP READING: Exclusive: 10 Years Later, Gore Verbinski Looks Back At ‘Rango’ And The Radical Approach He Applied To The Animation Medium
The sci-fi action film as a whole was originally planned for a theatrical release.
About the Author