Tak­ing the Ham­mer to an old icon

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - THE LONE RANGER opens Thurs­day

THEY bred ’ em tough in the old west. When Ar­mie Ham­mer signed up to play the Lone Ranger in Gore Verbin­ski’s 21st- cen­tury re­boot, he knew his body was about to take a se­ri­ous pound­ing.

“Con­ser­va­tively, I did about 90 to 95 per cent of the stunts,” the 26- year- old ac­tor says.

“If you pay at­ten­tion in the movie, when you see me be­ing thrown out of the train, or be­ing dragged be­hind the horse, it doesn’t cut away,” Ham­mer says.

For the ca­reer- mak­ing op­por­tu­nity to play straight man to Johnny Depp’s bird- brained Tonto, the 196cm new­comer was cer­tainly pre­pared to give it a red- hot go.

And af­ter spend­ing 10 months camp­ing out in the some of Amer­ica’s most stun­ning wilder­ness, the ac­tor un­til now best known for play­ing the Win­klevoss twins in Face­book film The So­cial Net­work has just one re­gret: “It ended.”

Ham­mer de­scribes the ex­tended film shoot – which like Verbin­ski and pro­ducer Jerry Bruck­heimer’s Pi­rates of the Caribbean fran­chise swapped green screen tech­nol­ogy for real lo­ca­tions – as the per­fect boy’s own fan­tasy.

“Are you kid­ding? We got to ride horses, res­cue the girl, shoot guns, throw las­sos,” Ham­mer says. “We slept un­der the stars, spent 12 hours a day in the sad­dle. It felt very au­then­tic.”

Ham­mer says in­hab­it­ing a phys­i­cal land­scape that hasn’t changed since men like John Reid ( the Lone Ranger) first rode across it helped him get into char­ac­ter.

In fact, some scenes didn’t re­quire much act­ing at all. The first spec­tac­u­lar train se­quence, in which 40 tonnes of de­railed steel bear down upon Reid and Tonto, came alarm­ingly close to cin­ema vérité.

“The first time we did that [ stunt], [ the car­riage] al­most crushed us,” Ham­mer says.

“It came in hot. It stopped me­tres from where we were.”

Un­like Su­per­man’s Henry Cav­ill, with whom he is about to ap­pear in Guy Ritchie’s adap­ta­tion of clas­sic 60s TV se­ries The Man from U. N. C. L. E, Ham­mer chose not to bulk up too much for to play the ex- Texas ranger, who righted wrongs on the small screen through­out the 1950s.

“There were no gyms back then. Guys weren’t do­ing bench presses and push ups, so I didn’t want to look ripped.”

Know­ing sad­dle sore­ness was unavoid­able, Ham­mer built up his leg mus­cles with 80km bike rides.

To with­stand the bumps and bruises that were sure to ac­com­pany the stunt work, he em­barked upon a rig­or­ous ex­er­cise reg­i­men aimed at build­ing up his core strength.

That might ex­plain why the iconic char­ac­ter he plays has aged so ex­traor­di­nar­ily well.

“Ap­par­ently he had a good moisturiser,” Ham­mer jokes.

To en­sure a smooth ride for con­tem­po­rary au­di­ences, Verbin­ski, Bruck­heimer and their cast, which in­cludes He­lena Bon­ham Carter and Tom Wilkin­son, have made some im­por­tant nar­ra­tive mod­ifi cations.

“The old show was great, and fun to watch, but it didn’t have any sense of hu­mour about it­self,” says Ham­mer, who watched the orig­i­nal se­ries with his dad.”

The 21st- cen­tury take is much more know­ing than its TV pre­de­ces­sor.

But al­though Verbin­ski pushes the en­ve­lope in terms of nar­ra­tive self- aware­ness, he is care­ful never to let his ver­sion top­ple over into car­i­ca­ture or par­ody.

In keep­ing with the cur­rent trend to­wards “ori­gin” sto­ries, his film charts the evo­lu­tion of The Lone Ranger and Tonto’s re­la­tion­ship.

Ham­mer de­scribes it as “The Odd Cou­ple with a bit of Midnight Run thrown in.”

“Two guys who don’t like each other are stuck to­gether. And even­tu­ally they re­alise that might have been a good thing.”

VICKY ROACH ODD COU­PLE: Johnny Depp and Ar­mie Ham­mer in The Lone Ranger.

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