Make no bones about it, "The Lone Ranger" is a weird movie. There are flesh-eating rabbits involved and our hero's horse likes to climb trees. The hero, in this case, is the aforementioned Lone Ranger, played by Armie Hammer.
Hammer received mass critical approval for his portrayal of both Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in the 2010 Oscar nominated film "The Social Network" (a role that will undoubtedly always be mentioned in the introductory paragraph of any Hammer interview for the rest of his career). From there, he starred alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" and played the charming prince in Tarsem's interpretation of Snow White, "Mirror Mirror." Now, Hammer is the title character (though, Johnny Depp is no doubt the "star") in a movie with a reported budget hovering around $225 million. So, yes, "The Lone Ranger" is a big movie for Armie Hammer.
If you don't know, the Lone Ranger is actually John Reid -- in this interpretation, he's a lawyer who is the only survivor of a bloody ambush that leaves his brother dead. Saved by a, let's say, eccentric Native American named Tonto (Depp), the two team up in an effort to defeat the evil Butch Cavendish (William Fichtner).
Ahead, Hammer discusses the at times tumultuous shoot (production was shut down at one point over financing) and teaches us a history lesson about the last guy to portray the Lone Ranger theatrically, the infamous Klinton Spilsbury. Hammer also looks ahead to his next role as the dashing spy Illya Kuryakin in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."
"The Lone Ranger" is so weird.
[Laughs] Yes, this is true.
Is that what you liked about it?
I read it was supposed to have even more of the supernatural element.
Well, you know, it's funny. I heard a lot about the supernatural things before I got involved with the project. You know, when I was first auditioning and stuff like that, I had people ask me, "Are there going to be werewolves and this kind of thing and that kind of thing?" And I was like, "Honestly, I have not read a script. I have no idea."
Oh, so even without the weird supernatural element, you just wanted to be The Lone Ranger.
Oh, totally. Totally. I mean, Gore [Verbinski] was going to direct it, Johnny [Depp] was going to be Tonto and Jerry [Bruckheimer] was going to produce it. It's kind of like a no-brainer.
That's a nice threesome of talent.
Yeah, and I think they've proven themselves once or twice. They seem tried and true. So, once I got involved, I read the script and I was like, "This is so not." Obviously Tonto believes in the supernatural and is a very sort of superstitious character, but the argument is made through the whole thing, "Is this supernatural or isn't it?" It never takes a stance. I liked it; I like the sort of fence it straddled.
When the production was infamously stopped, who tells you that? Were you worried?
No. I wasn't worried. I had the inside track a little bit. I heard from Gore and I heard from Jerry what was going on -- the negotiation techniques. I mean, basically, more than anything else, that was Disney playing hardball. They wanted to show that they still, as the studio, had a little bit of control and they did whatever they could. So, I had literally gotten on the project a day or two before it happened. It wasn't exactly Earth-shattering for me, but I was glad that we actually got to do it at the end of the day.
This is such a different interpretation. I mean, no one remembers the movie from the early '80s...
"The Legend of the Lone Ranger"?
I believe all of The Lone Ranger's lines were redubbed.
Yep. The guy, Klinton Spilsbury, he was from Mexico City I think, originally. And I think, it's funny, there was an article in the local Sante Fe paper about it today that I read and apparently the guy was a total mess. I mean, he literally he got barred from all of the pubs and bars in Sante Fe. He was just a drunk mess and was punching women in the face. Oh, it was just a disaster.
I had read some things, but I didn't know that.
That is the legend of The Lone Ranger.
Did you watch episodes of the television show as research? This movie is so different, I would imagine it's not necessary.
No, I did. A large part of my process is research based. So it was important for me to get to know it -- and to know the TV show and to know the radio series and be familiar, because that's the roots of where our Lone Ranger came from.
But no blue suit. Or was it more of a gray-ish suit?
Blue! It was like baby blue. It was a baby blue lycra suit with a giant neckerchief.
It was like the old Kansas City Royals road uniforms.
Totally! Totally. It's a bit much.
I'm assuming then that you were happy on costume day.
Yeah. I mean, Penny Rose, who did all of the costuming and all of that, she's just absolutely incredible. And, you know, we made the costumes very real. All of the clothes that we were wearing would have been things that people would have been wearing in those days, which were from those days. There were no zippers, there was no velcro or anything like that. It was all buttons and all real.
Do you feel a different pressure with this movie versus something like "The Social Network"? Being that this is such a big movie and you are a big part of it.
No, I try not to think about it. I mean, my only job is to do a good job acting. So, I really just focus on that.
That sounds like the healthy way to approach it.
Yeah, it keeps me from spreading my butter too thin, I guess.
I just re-watched your brief appearance on "Arrested Development" from season two. The "star dork" scene.
I was hoping you were going to reprise that role for season four. Just the one line again, then you're gone.
Yeah, yeah. I'd maybe be bald and overweight, like the guy who was the high school jock and that was his peak.
See, that would have been great.
You should have called Ron Howard.
Because I have that kind of influence.
You're with The Huffington Post, of course you do.
Please keep thinking that.
You're playing Illya Kuryakin in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."
I feel that people unfamiliar with the show might not realize how cool that character is.
That's very true. I had no idea before I got involved with it.
The actor who played him in the series, David McCallum, became a heartthrob because of this character.
Oh, dude, he had the way with ladies. He had all of the spy gadgets. He was tough. He was cool. He had everything. He was like the original Bond.
It's an interesting movie because "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." was a popular show in the '60s, but it hasn't been a sustained popularity like something like "The Lone Ranger" or "Star Trek." Do you think it needs to be completely reintroduced?
I try not to think about that. I mean, that seems to me-- you know, Guy Ritchie, who's directing it, that's in his wheelhouse. I'll let him worry about that. For me, like I said, my job lies almost exclusively between when the director says "action" and when he calls "cut." So, it could also maybe be more freeing. That we do have a bit more artistic liberties to take with this. Because there are less people who are staunch fans of it.
You mentioned Guy Ritchie. You've been working with an eclectic group of directors -- Fincher, Eastwood, Tarsem -- where does Verbinski rank? I feel he should be mentioned more often in the lists of great directors working today.
Dude, he's in my top 10. There's no question about that. He's one of the best that I've worked with. He's incredible. And it's like, I have gotten to work with a great array of directors. It's been like going to film school. It's been a lot of fun.
Is that something you're looking for when you agree to a project?
It seems like that's important to you.
Definitely. Because I'd like to direct one day and I feel like I can learn a lot from watching different people do their things in different ways.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.