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Was Disney’s The Lone Ranger Reboot Really Going to Unleash a Werewolf in the Old West?

  • April 13, 2021

The 2013 film adaptation of the popular fictional character The Lone Ranger is an odd duck in many ways. Modeled in equal parts after superhero movies of today and cowboy movies of the sixties, the film sees Johnny Depp in the central role of Tonto, a Comanche warrior who befriends John Reid aka the Lone Ranger, played by Armie Hammer, as the two take on the military-industrial complex in Texas, 1869. In an interview with Collider, the director of The Lone Ranger, Gore Verbinski confirmed the rumors that the movie was originally set to feature a werewolf character before he took the story in a new direction.

“I did Rango. It came back around like four years later, where [producer] Jerry [Bruckheimer] had said, ‘Do you want to come back on?’ I said, ‘Well, I’d like to do the version I was originally thinking about.’ Somewhere in the interim, without me involved there was a werewolf, that’s where the werewolf thing came from. But I never read that draft… So that was off in some other cul-de-sac. It wasn’t part of my world at all. Then at the point when it came back… I think they had exhausted the other path. It was Johnny who called me and said, ‘Can you come back in?’ And he had sent me a photograph of him in Tonto makeup and the bird on his head. And then, I pitched my original idea to Justin Haythe, and we just started working on the script.”

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While a werewolf feels like an odd addition to the world of The Lone Ranger, which was always grounded in reality and the cowboy films in their heyday rather than comic books, some trace of the supernatural creature did make it into the finished movie. One outlaw character, named Butch Cavendish, is shown to be a cannibal, that Tonto frequently refers to as a “Wendigo”, an evil spirit that feeds on human flesh. It is possible that Cavendish at some point was set to be a full-on werewolf before Verbinski intervened.

Instead of bringing in any supernatural elements, the filmmaker instead chose to tell the story of a changing world, where Tonto and The Lone Ranger come to realize they are relics of a bygone era.

“That idea that the future is coming, whether it’s the railroad, whether it’s the East India Trading Company, it’s there in Rango, the inevitability of the future and what happens to the gunslinger or Captain Jack or any of these characters when they’re confronting progress. And because of Tonto’s perspective, it’s in The Lone Ranger quite overtly. When these guys in the 60s and early 70s started to mess with the genre and go, what happens to the guy on the horse when the automobile arrives? That is what fascinates me, that collapse of some bubble or balloon or belief system. I think that’s really when you’re forced to look at things differently. And that’s when everything changes for you. You turn everything upside down, you see, it’s when a kid sees the gum under the table. Basically, it’s a different vantage point…”

Despite the experienced hand of Verbinski, and the star power of Depp, The Lone Ranger was plagued by bad reviews, criticism over Depp playing a Comanche character, and the film sank at the box office, killing the fledgling franchise before it could properly begin. This news originated at Collider.

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