To say that life in America now is different than it was back in the mid-19th century is a gross, almost laughable understatement. Social and technological advancements over the last 200 years have made life much simpler and comfortable than ever seen before, and not having those advancements made life hard back in the 1800s – particularly for those who lived out west. It would be a challenge for someone today to completely understand the lifestyle from a 21st century perspective, but when Armie Hammer first landed the role of The Lone Ranger he made his understanding of the time period a priority – a what he discovered is that life in the Old West was harder than you could possibly imagine.
As I mentioned a few days ago, last month I had the chance to fly out to Santa Fe, New Mexico to take part in a press day for The Lone Ranger, and during my stay I had the terrific opportunity to sit down one-on-one with the star in the titular role. Check out our conversation below, where Hammer talks about tackling an iconic pop culture character, working with both director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, and his surprise that we didn’t all just die out in the desert years and years ago.
You were here during production, yeah?
Yeah, we were here for probably three or four months before.
That must add to the whole mystique of the desert.
Paradise. Yeah, it was like you wake up here and then you go to work and you ride a horse all day and you’re like, “I think I actually am a cowboy.”
Did you have any of the ranger skills going into making the movie?
I mean, I probably had like a hint of some of them, maybe most of them, but nothing like the extensive skills I would need to actually do the movie. I’d thrown a lasso. I think I lassoed my brother a couple times for fun, but never a moving object especially not a Gatling gun, which I had to lasso at one point in the movie.
Where did this project start for you?
Yeah, I mean, the project had been around for a while. I think Jerry and Johnny started talking about it back in 2006 or something like that. And then I got involved at the end, pretty much, to right before we started shooting. I just went in and auditioned and auditioned four or five times and then had a good conversation with Gore and he was like, “Do you want to do the movie?” and I was like, “Is this binding? Yeah, I do. Sure, let’s go.”
When you take on a new character, is there a particular thing that you like to hone into first, and especially with this character, what was it that?
It’s research. I basically honed in on just daily life at the time, so before I learned anything about being a Texas Ranger or the history of the television show or anything like that, I want to know what that person had to do to feed themselves every day. I want to know what that person had to do if they wanted to take a shit. I want to know what that person had to do if they had to go visit their cousin in another town and I promise you, it was the hardest thing in the world, each one of those things then, and I just wanted to know about that, because that really informs everything about the characters from that point on.
When it came to the research part of it, I have to assume that you also looked back at the history of The Lone Ranger.
Then we got the radio series and the TV show. We got the comics. We got the books. We’ve got the 1980s movie, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, that whole thing.
What would you say that you took the most from?
It’s funny, probably the original show, just because so many of the core elements of this movie came directly from the show, whether it’s the bad guys, Silver, the mask, hat, horse, Tonto, I mean everything is original. So, that’s kind of where all of that came from, so probably the show.
In terms of working with Gore Verbinski, he is a fantastic visual director, but I’m also curious about what he’s like to work with as an actor’s director. How much, was it a collaborative process? What was it like every day?
It’s very collaborative in as much as he’s seen this movie a thousand times before you even say any of the words out loud. So, it’s about, you know, sort of understanding what he wants and then figuring out how to put that through your own process to give it to him. That’s kind of, and he’s great. He’s very verbal. He’s very communicative. He’s a great director, very smart. Very smart.
He has worked with Johnny Depp on quite a number of projects, so I assume they have their own kind of shorthand. Was that ever a challenge you had to face on the set?
Not really, because it was, it never felt exclusive. It was like the most inclusive club I’ve ever seen in my life. As soon as I showed up it was like, “Have a seat. OK, here’s what we’re doing.” I just felt like a part of it the whole time. I mean, it probably helped that I was playing the Lone Ranger.
The title role!
I did feel like a big part of it, which was great.