“The Lone Ranger” rode into theaters Wednesday, and if there’s one scene viewers will walk away talking about, it’s the runaway train finale.
Director Gore Verbinski’s adaptation of the iconic Western hero closes out with a climactic action sequence set atop two runaway railroad cars, as Armie Hammer’s masked hero and Johnny Depp’s Tonto alternate from train to train in an attempt to bring villains to justice. It’s a massive, nearly 20-minute sequence designed to leave viewers breathless. But the viewing experience pales in comparison to how much effort went into bringing the “Lone Ranger” climax to life.
“When you read the script, you realize it’s going to be at least half the shoot, that train sequence,” Depp told MTV News about shooting the movie’s stunt-heavy finale. “You realize you’re going to be strapped to the top of a train. You know there’s going to be some kind of insanity running around.”
Actual trains and working track were built to lend authenticity to “The Lone Ranger” and the fictional town of Colby. But for the final sequence, railroad cars were placed on specially designed trucks and driven through multiple locations to achieve the various different looks of the scene: the bleak desert, the bountiful foothills, and even alpine environments.
“I think we shot in every single state in the American southwest,” said Hammer. “I think we shot some of it in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and California. It was one of those things where we knew the scale of this last sequence we were putting together, and to only do it piecemeal was such a tease.”
Because the sequence was shot over the course of the production and in so many different locations, there were times when Verbinski and his team would only get three usable shots in a single week. The elements weren’t always cooperative, either.
“We were a traveling road show, and sometimes we got shut down for dust and snow and wind and hail,” he said. “Mother Nature didn’t always cooperate.”
Despite the difficulty of the shoot, Verbinski said that it was crucial to actually brave the rough terrain, rather than rely too much on CGI and special effects to bring the Western to life.
“Actors act differently when they’re acting on top of a moving train than when they’re standing in front of a blue-screen,” he said. “Trying to get honesty in there was important, to not let it become theatrical or syrupy or overly beautiful. You have to go in and embrace the elements.”
“It’s the difference between a bunch of guys sweating their asses off and feeling the heat … versus a bunch of guys standing in an air-conditioned hangar with a bunch of green fabric all around them,” added Hammer. “It made it feel that much more real for the actors, and hopefully that translates for the audience.”
And while the process of shooting the explosive “Lone Ranger” finale was exhausting for the cast and crew, Depp believes the end result speak for itself.
“It’s one of those things that once you get through it, you realize you’ve been involved in something so mathematically perfect,” he said. “And you feel great about it.”
“Hurts while you’re doing it, though,” Depp admitted with a grin.
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Lone Ranger.”