There’s a new big screen adaptation of the popular Lone Ranger character in the works and an unusual casting choice has been announced.
The Lone Ranger is the 1930s creation of Fran Striker. The Ranger is a masked avenger from the old west who seeks to help those in need. He’s aided by his faithful white steed, Silver, and his American Indian friend, Tonto. The characters were first introduced to the public in a 1933 radio series that ran for more than 20 years. The Lone Ranger became such a hit that the characters were soon featured in movie serials, novels, comic strips, and comic books.
The character is likely best remembered for the half-hour Lone Ranger television series that began in 1949. Clayton Moore played the Ranger with Jay Silverheels as Tonto. Midway through the show’s run, Moore had a dispute with the show’s producers and he was replaced by actor John Hart for two years. Moore returned to the role for the series’ final three seasons, ending in 1957.
A big-screen movie, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, arrived in theaters in 1981 but it was an immediate flop. The film was severely flawed and the lead actor’s dialogue was overdubbed by another performer. The film received bad publicity before it even opened when film’s producers filed an injunction against Moore, preventing him from doing personal appearances as the character. They gave a film cameo to Hart, Moore’s TV replacement.
The Lone Ranger was later revived for Saturday morning cartoons with Zorro, another masked Western hero. In 2003, a live-action pilot for a WB series was created. The newest version’s story bore little resemblance to what had come before and it was not made into a series. Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill) played the Ranger with Nathaniel Arcand (Moose TV) as Tonto.
Sony had been developing a new big-screen movie five years ago and even hired Jonathan Mostow as the project’s director. Mostow has directed action films like Terminator 3 and also wrote and developed the Birds of Prey TV series. By Fall 2006, the movie had been postponed and Mostow moved on. In February 2007, Disney registered several Lone Ranger movie domains.
Earlier this year, it was reported that Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films indeed had plans for a Lone Ranger movie. Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott, the screenwriters behind the Pirates of the Caribbean movie trilogy, were signed to write the script.
Though a lead hasn’t been announced, Johnny Depp has just been signed to play Tonto. Depp’s grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee and he embraced his heritage in his self-directed 1997 movie The Brave. At a Disney event at the Kodak Theater yesterday, Depp walked on stage to the tune of “The William Tell Overture,” dressed as Jack Sparrow and wearing a Lone Ranger mask.
Though long-time fans of the character may be worried that the new movie will be a Caribbean-like parody of the venerable hero, that’s not necessarily the case. Rossio and Elliott also wrote The Mask of Zorro movie which successfully reinvented another masked Western hero. Rossio recently had lunch with Fred Foy, one of the announcers on the Ranger radio series, and Foy was enthusiastic about the co-writer’s plans.
Based on early information, it seems like the producers have every intent on being faithful to the Lone Ranger history and the movie will include the character’s origin story. Last Spring, Bruckheimer told MTV, “I wouldn’t say it’s an updating of the tale, I would say it’s kind of getting back to the roots of the tale, where it originated from… it’s about Texas Rangers, so we’re going to take it to how the characters are created.”
The film is expected to be released in 2010 and it’s hoped that Depp’s participation will help spawn another blockbuster franchise. Hi-yo Silver!