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It's The Johnny Depp News-O-Rama!

Pirates 4! Mad Hatter! And Lone Ranger?!

Walt Disney Studios held a massive event today at the Kodak Theatre in LA, during which the Studios’ chairman, Dick Cook, made a string of announcements about their upcoming movies over the next few years.

And Johnny Depp was at the heart of it all.

The actor showed up on stage for a triple announcement which apparently ties him to Disney for some time. That announcement was:

• That Depp will return as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean 4.

• That he will star as The Mad Hatter in Tim Burton’s next movie, Alice In Wonderland.

• Neither of those were huge surprises, but the next one was. Boy, was it.

For Depp has signed on to star as Tonto in a movie version of The Lone Ranger, which will be produced by Pirates producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Now that's surprising - not just because Tonto is traditionally a role for a Native American (although Depp's great-grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee, and of course he played a Native American in his self-directed film, The Brave), but because it's very much a sidekick role to the flashier Lone Ranger, a masked crusader for justice in the Old West. So if Disney has Depp in the second banana role, they must have someone really special lined up for the Ranger himself. And, of course, we imagine that Tonto will get a lot more to do in this movie.

Details on the timeline of all three movies are a little sketchy right now, but since Burton starts shooting in a couple of months on Alice In Wonderland, expect Depp to head into that first. That might not be a huge role, anyway.

Then, it should be onto The Lone Ranger, which has a provisional release date of 2010. Interestingly, this could put it up against Seth Rogen and Stephen Chow's The Green Hornet. Why interestingly? Well, Britt Reid - aka The Green Hornet - is The Lone Ranger's great-nephew.

Of course, The Green Hornet is a Sony movie, so it's unlikely that we'll see them team up, a la Tony Stark turning up in The Incredible Hulk, but it'll still be fun to see who wins the Battle Of The Reid Family in 2010...

And after that, then we'll see Depp return as Captain Jack Sparrow, although Pirates 4 is currently only in early development. But, given that Depp staggered on stage at the Disney event in full Captain Jack make-up and costume, it's clearly a role he's itching to get back to.

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