Lone Ranger Armie Hammer

For actor Armie Hammer, things are going pretty damn well right about now. He broke out in an Oscar-nominated film, worked with one of the best directors of all time, and is now the title character in a big budget Disney blockbuster. That last one is, of course, Gore Verbinski‘s The Lone Ranger, a brand-new take on the classic radio and TV character featuring Hammer as the Ranger and Johnny Depp as his sidekick, Tonto. This time around, however, Depp’s the focus and Hammer is just fine with that.

In our one on one interview, the actor talked about joining the multi-billion dollar team of Verbinski, Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, the thought of playing this character for years to come, his next film (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) directed by Guy Ritchie, and what would have happened if he’d played Batman in George Miller’s Justice League.

/Film: So you’re the new addition to this Depp-Bruckheimer-Verbinski triumvirate that has a pretty good track record.

Armie Hammer: We refer to them as the “quad-umvirate.”

Was it easy to come into that? Where they accepting of your ideas?

Yeah, I mean only because they made it easy. I mean it could have very well been exclusive, like “Look, we’ve done this before, young guy. You just do what we tell you” kind of thing, but it didn’t feel like that at all. As soon as I showed up, “Come here. Have a seat. Let’s talk about this. What’s going on? Let’s talk about the project.” It was great.

The movie hinges on your chemistry with Johnny. How did you develop that?

Date nights, a lot of date nights.

You’re a lucky guy.

Movies, wine, you know… the whole thing.

Was it intimidating?

Not really, because I knew most of the pressure was on him. He’s the one playing Tonto. It’s his movie. He’s the one who put this together with Jerry. I’m the new guy who kind of came in, got to take a great role, and did my job and got out.

Did you rewatch the Pirates movies to see what you were stepping into?

I mean I don’t really feel like I had to. I feel like I had seen them all so recently. It’s like a rule, there always has to be a Pirates movie on television at all times, so it’s like there’s always something going on.

This is a role you could end up playing for a long time, depending on how successful the movie is. Were there any trepidations about that?

I tried not to [worry about it], man. That seemed like a slippery slope. It felt like here I was walking on a tightrope of “This is my character. This is what I actually have control of in this movie. How I say this…. How I stand… How I do this… How I react to this person,” that kind of thing. As soon as you start getting a little off on this side or that side it’s a slippery slope about “Oh, well this thing that I have no control over…” then you stop focusing on what you have to do, so I try to stay focused.

But you have to think about it, like “I like this character enough that if this does well…”

Yeah. You know, I would hope that I would have enough artistic integrity that if I didn’t like the character enough, I wouldn’t take the movie.

This seems like your biggest movie, as far as production scale. What was something that, when you got on set, that you didn’t expect?

I didn’t expect it to feel so small. There wasn’t a moment on set that didn’t feel like we were making an independent movie. I mean Gore was there. We were talking about character. Jerry was there… It felt very insulated and the only thing that really mattered was what we were doing right in front of the camera and what we were getting as the final product of our movie and that’s all that anyone seemed to care about. So it felt like a small project.

Gore Verbinski seems to be very soft spoken; does go hand in hand with that “small set” feel?

He’s very soft spoken, but he’s got a humongous brain. I mean he’s one of the smarter directors that I’ve ever worked with. He’s just absolutely incredible. So he might be quiet, but he’s got the best ideas floating around in there.

You talked a little bit about focusing on the character. You have a lot of things to play with here: humor, exposition, and a journey from lawyer to action hero. How did all of this meld in your head?

They were all just different layers to the same character. It’s like he’s the same amount of lawyer in the beginning as he is at the end, it’s just about how much of it comes through. It’s about getting to know and getting to like the character and getting to really like the transformation that he goes through and all that, then keeping track of it when you’re making the movie. Like “What scene are we shooting now? Okay, well how tough am I at this point? Okay, I’m very tough. Okay, how dorky am I? Okay, pretty dorky…” It’s that kind of stuff.

Did you do your own stunts?

Yeah.

Everything?

I mean everything they would let us. I think one of the things they wouldn’t let us do was when the train comes off the rails and the two guys fly through the air and then hit the ground and roll, that was one that they didn’t let us do, but everything other than that.

You’ve had a run with a couple family movies [Mirror, Mirror & Lone Ranger] and two adult movies [Social Network, J. Edgar]. Do you have a preference for overall tone or style?

Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m still so young, I feel kind of like a rebellious teenager where when someone is like “We’re making a family movie.” That’s the moment, when someone says that, that I want to cuss the most. So I don’t know yet.

Your next movie, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,  sort of splits the difference, right?

A little bit, yeah.

What does Guy Ritchie have planned for that?

Guy Ritchie greatness. That’s all I can say.

There’s been a lot of turns with this project. “Tom Cruise is out… This guy is out…” You seem to have been there the whole time.

Like a fungus.

What is it about it that got you to stick around?

It was Guy. I mean it was a hundred percent Guy, and Tom was doing it at the time and that seemed like a cool thing, too. Getting to play a Russian KGB spy seemed like a really exciting thing. Getting to learn a lot about the Cold War, that sounded like a great idea. Now I get to work with Henry Cavill, which is really exciting with Guy Ritchie directing. I’m really excited to see what kind of frenetic spin he has in him. It should be really exciting.

Do you ever think about how different your career would have been had that the Justice League movie happened?

Yes and no. I do think about it, but I think about it more in terms of “I’m really glad it didn’t happen.” Like I’m really glad everything happened as it was supposed to, because now I’m sitting here. Had that happened, at nineteen years old, if I would have gotten to do that part, I don’t think I would have had the tools for it. Who knows? I’m glad everything happened the way it did.

They are recasting that, so if they talked to you… ?

Not that I’m not interested, it’s just that it’s a very different climate now than it was when that first came around. There was nothing like that before, now The Avengers is just crushing it and they did such a smart thing where they built up theses separate fanbases and then brought them together for one big movie, which is what they are trying to do with the Batman-Superman thing. They just did it so well with Marvel, I mean it will be hard to beat. But it was going to be very different. It was going to be a lot darker, a lot darker.

The Lone Ranger opens July 3. Check back soon for our interview with director Gore Verbinski.

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