Johnny Depp puts Tonto at center stage in new 'Lone Ranger' film

Tue Jul 2, 2013 1:39pm EDT
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By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When the western television series "The Lone Ranger" first rode into U.S. homes in 1949, the masked man was the dashing, charming hero and the Native American Tonto his loyal sidekick.

When the movie opens in U.S. theaters on Wednesday, it will be Tonto who takes center stage. Played by Johnny Depp with the same offbeat charm as his Captain Jack Sparrow in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, Tonto is the brains of the operation.

In an opening sequence - a breakneck fight scene on a runaway train - Tonto directs an escape from outlaws while a mask-less Lone Ranger, played by Armie Hammer, is the naive one, unsure at the outset that he was even in danger.

"It's a story we've all heard, but we've never heard it from the guy who was there," the film's director Gore Verbinski, 49, told Reuters.

For the new incarnation, Verbinski wanted to update the story by making Tonto more relevant than just a sidekick. Once the idea was hatched to make him the narrator, "it opened a lot of doors" in terms of storytelling, he said.

Through Tonto's eyes, audiences get an origin tale of how former lawman John Reid, the Lone Ranger, came to fight injustice in the Old West.

"This is not history told from your radio station, your movie studio or your network," Verbinski said. "It's told from Tonto and his memory - and his memory may be questionable."

To make Tonto's point of view authentic, a Native American consultant was used on the set, Verbinski said, adding that they also spoke with various tribes to get certain details correct.   Continued...

Cast member Johnny Depp waves at the world premiere of "The Lone Ranger" at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California June 22, 2013. The movie opens in the U.S. on July 3. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni