Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images; Everett Collection

After a close call where a soaring budget nearly killed it, Johnny Depp's $215 million update on The Lone Ranger begins shooting today in the desert of New Mexico.

If only the title character had some kind of catchphrase to mark this auspicious event!

EW spoke with Johnny Depp previously about what he had planned for the film — which features him as Tonto, taking the reins as the lead character while Armie Hammer's Lone Ranger becomes the sidekick.

"I remember watching it as a kid, with Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore, and going: 'Why is the f—ing Lone Ranger telling Tonto what to do?'" Depp told EW last year, recalling the 1949-1957 TV show, which was seen for many more decades in reruns. "I liked Tonto, even at that tender age, and knew Tonto was getting the unpleasant end of the stick here. That's stuck with me."

When the idea came up to do a new movie, Depp saw a way to right what he considered a pop culture wrong. "I started thinking about Tonto and what could be done in my own small way to… " he hesitated. "Eliminate' isn't possible — but reinvent the relationship, to attempt to take some of the ugliness thrown on the Native Americans, not only in The Lone Ranger, but the way Indians were treated throughout history of cinema, and turn it on its head."

The movie is being produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and is directed by Gore Verbinski, who made the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies with Depp. (Verbinski, coincidentally, won a best animated feature Oscar on Sunday for Rango, the lizard-out-of-terrarium movie he created with the actor last year.)

Disney's brief plot synopsis doesn't go into much detail, but outlines The Lone Ranger as a kind of buddy picture:

Costars include Barry Pepper, Helena Bonham Carter, William Fichtner, and Tom Wilkinson, though their specific characters were not revealed.

While they're starting in New Mexico, the film — aiming for release on May 13, 2013 — will also shoot in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado.

Artist Crash McCreery, who also did the creature designs for Rango, is the production designer, and the script was written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio of the four Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Eric Aronson, and Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road).

Disney almost scuttled the whole enterprise when the budget ballooned to $250 million, and Bruckheimer and Verbinski saved it in October by changing the script to cut about $35 million from the cost.

On Twitter: @Breznican


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