If all you know about The Lone Ranger comes from that Far Side cartoon or the rhyme “On to Toronto, pronto, Tonto!”, fear not! Ahead of the new film outing for the veteran character, with Armie Hammer as the titular Texas Ranger and Johnny Depp as his sidekick Tonto, we bring you the facts you need to know about the character’s history to date.
1. The Lone Ranger was created for a radio show on a station in Detroit, and was first broadcast on January 30, 1933. Nearly 3,000 episodes followed (there's some confusion about the exact number) until September 3, 1954. The character also sparked a 1930s movie serial, a TV show from 1949-1957, four films prior to this effort, comic books, novels, records, three animated series and a video game.
2. The premise of the show was that six Texas Rangers, led by Captain Dan Reid, set out to hunt the notorious Butch Cavendish gang. They were led into an ambush and killed – but for one lone survivor, Dan's brother John Reid, who was badly wounded but still alive when he was found by a Potawatomi called Tonto. Since John has previously saved Tonto's life,
Tonto returned the favour.
3. Here's where it gets clever: Tonto dug six graves at the site so that everyone would think John was dead too, and together the pair set about hunting down Cavendish, his gang and other ne'er-do-wells of similar stripe.
4. The Ranger has a creed, which you can read in full here. What's interesting is that the showrunners also had extra guidelines to follow. So The Lone Ranger never takes off
his mask; always uses proper, slang-free speech; never kills his victims (Batman stole this gimmick!), always shooting to disarm; generally fights American baddies to avoid criticisms from minority groups; and doesn't smoke or drink.
5. A 2003 attempt to relaunch a TV series floundered because it was, well... here's a few facts. Chad Michael Murray played the Lone Ranger, who was renamed "Luke Hartman". There was a love triangle with Tonto's sister, Luke and another Apache (not Potawatomi). There was an environmental thread involving railways, and a peyote-fuelled vision quest. And EVERYONE was very chiselled. Inexplicably, the show was not picked up.
6. The Green Hornet began life as a spin-off of The Lone Ranger – Britt Reid, the hero of that show, is supposed to be the grand-nephew of The Lone Ranger's John Reid. He even wears a similar mask!
7. This new film version has been in development since March 2002, when producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher teamed up with Columbia Pictures to make a Mask Of Zorro-tinged version. In 2003, David and Janet Peoples (Twelve Monkeys) were hired to write the script – only to be replaced by Laeta Kalogridis (Alexander) in 2005, when Jonathan Mostow was set to direct.
8. In May 2007, with the project still no further through development, Jerry Bruckheimer brought it in for Disney, adding his Pirates Of The Caribbean writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio in March 2008. That September, Johnny Depp signed on as Tonto. Mike Newell was in negotiations to direct in May 2009, but it wasn't until September 2010 that a director officially signed on – and now it was Gore Verbinski. Depp remained attached, but had to finish work on Dark Shadows before shooting, while Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road) rewrote the Elliott-Rossio supernaturally-themed script. Armie Hammer was cast as the Ranger himself in April 2011.
9. Budget concerns temporarily shelved the film between August and October 2011, but the rewritten script presented a story that, we are assured, is no less epic but perhaps slightly lighter on werewolves (apparently suggested by the tradition that the Ranger fires silver bullets). Hammer's lawman now finds himself squaring off against Tom Wilkinson's devilish Latham Cole.
10. As well as using silver bullets – because he inherited the rights to a silver mine, you know – the Lone Ranger's trusty steed also goes by Silver, as in his classic catchphrase "Hi-yo Silver, away!" We are assured that that will appear in the new film.
For more on The Lone Ranger (out in August 2013 in the UK, and on July 3, 2013 in the US) pick up the new copy of Empire, on sale now.