James Badge Dale Talks THE LONE RANGER, the Experience of Making a Western, His Relationship with His Horse, Cowboy Boot Camp, and More

     July 4, 2013


From Academy Award-winning director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, The Lone Ranger is an action-adventure that tells the origin tale of the famed masked hero, John Reid (Armie Hammer), and how he became a legend of justice, with a little help from Native American warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp).  The movie also stars Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson and Helena Bonham Carter.

During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, the undeniably charming James Badge Dale (who plays the Lone Ranger’s older brother, Texas Ranger Dan Reid) talked about how cool it is to be in three of the biggest blockbusters of the summer (Iron Man 3, World War Z and The Lone Ranger), how The Lone Ranger was the most physically demanding, finding a treehouse out in Canyon de Chelly where he could grab a nap between takes, the process of finding the perfect cowboy hat for his character, working with a horse that was scared of gunfire, and the experience of cowboy boot camp.  Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.

the-lone-ranger-james-badge-daleCollider:  How cool is it to be in three of the biggest blockbusters this summer, with Iron Man 3, World War Z and The Lone Ranger?

JAMES BADGE DALE:  How the heck did it work out this way?!  I don’t know.  It’s two years of work that’s book-ending right here, within two months.  I’m fine with it.  Let’s just open ‘em all up, right now.  It’s an odd thing to do a film.  We collaborate and work so hard, and then we put it away while other people are working on it in a dark room.  They create the film, and then we have this moment where we let everyone watch it.  It’s like you’re watching a child go into the world.  You’re going, “I hope you do okay.” 

At least you know that when you do films of this size, they’ll open in theaters and people will be able to see them.

DALE:  Well, that’s true.  I’ve done a number of films that no one has ever seen, and that’s probably a good thing.

Was one of them the most physically demanding for you?

DALE:  Yes, definitely The Lone Ranger, without a doubt.  A friend of mine worked on a film in the desert, right before I did.  He called me and was like, “I’m just gonna say something to you.  The desert takes something out of you, so take care of yourself.”  And he was right.  When you’re outside in those elements, there’s something out there that takes it out of you, so you work real hard.  It was physically demanding, but in a very good way.  It’s not a bad thing.  It’s a good thing, when things are physically demanding ‘cause everyone is rising to the occasion.  It was dirty and hot, and you’re on a horse, all day.  It was physical work, but there wasn’t one of us – cast or crew – who didn’t have a smile on our face.  Even when it got real hard and tempers would rise because things would get difficult and the day would get late, we all loved the job and loved doing it.  When you finished that day of work, everyone was looking around and going, “Yeah, that was a good day, man.” 

the-lone-ranger-james-badge-dale-armie-hammerWhen you do a big Western like this, did it feel like you were living out a childhood fantasy?

DALE:  It was so cool!  I don’t know why I just remembered this, and I haven’t told anybody this, but we were shooting in Canyon de Chelly and we were so far up the canyon.  Once we were up there, we were up there.  There was no going back to your trailers.  Speaking of childhood fantasy, we were doing a Western, but we were also just hanging out.  You work, and you ride and ride and ride, and then, for the next two hours, you look for a place to kick out, in this amazing canyon with so much heritage and so much history.  I found a treehouse.  I found this weird tree, out in a field, and someone had put a piece of a fence, way up in a tree.  I just went up there and went to sleep for a few hours, in full cowboy regalia.  And someone did take a photo.  I have a photo of it, somewhere.  It brought me back to when I was 12 years old, sitting in a treehouse and imagining that I was in a Western somewhere.  You spend all this time, as a child, coming up with these fantasy stories, and here I am, sleeping in a treehouse, in the middle of Canyon de Chelly, shooting a Western.  That’s a bit of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.          

Was it fun to get in the costume, and find the right hat and coat?  Was there a whole process for finding the right cowboy hat?

DALE:  The hats are tough.  I’ve got a weird head, so believe me, there were a lot of hats.  Penny [Rose], our costume designer, who I knew from other jobs said, “Badge, that looks terrible on you.  Hold on.  No, we can’t do that one.”  I went through about 40 different hats until we found one that fit.  It had to fit me and fit the character, more importantly, and whatever that thing was that we were trying to create with him.  When you show up to work and put on your undergarments, throw on your suspenders and your cowboy boots, throw some dirt on you, and then get on your spurs, you start to walk a bit different.  When you put on your gun belts, you change again.  You go through this whole transformation process.  All that stuff changes you.  Riding a horse changes the way you walk and your demeanor.

the-lone-ranger-johnny-depp-silverDid you get along with your horse?

DALE:  I had a horse named Duke, and I fought for Duke.  They didn’t want me to ride Duke because Duke was scared of gunfire and we were doing a Western.  But, I loved Duke.  Duke is a 21-year-old horse.  He’s been around for a long time and done a lot of stunt work.  They were like, “This horse is a little younger,” but I just didn’t get along with the other horses.  Me and Duke had a little bit of an understanding.  And then, Duke heard some gunfire and ran off, with me on top, and I had to switch horses, after that.  We had to keep Duke away from the rifles.  Duke stood on me, one day.  That was one of the top five pains I’ve ever had, in my life.  I was saddling him up, and I felt something on my left foot.  I had this pain in my foot and I was like, “I think that’s a horse hoof.”  I could feel the horseshoe.  And then, Duke just shifted all his weight onto that foot.  You know when you have one of those dreams where you’re trying to scream and nothing comes out?  That can happen in real life, too.  And Duke just stood there.  He wasn’t moving.  Finally, I just pushed him, as hard as I could.  I was looking at the wrangler, and the wrangler was like, “That just happened?,” and I was like, “Yeah.  What do you do for a broken foot?”  He said, “Six pack.  You’ll be fine.” 

Dan Reid is a bit of a grey character, whose motives you sometimes question.  Was that important to you? 

DALE:  It was one of the things that I gravitated towards, in the character.  He is living in this grey area, which I think we all live in.  We’re all just trying to do the best that we can, but we’re not perfect.  He has faults, and I got to play with those faults.  It’s important for that character to have that because he’s the antithesis of his younger brother, in a lot of ways, and you’ve gotta have those differences, so that the younger brother, John Reid (Armie Hammer), can become The Lone Ranger.  The line when Tonto (Johnny Depp) says, “Great warrior,” the younger brother becomes the greater warrior than the older brother.  

lone-ranger-posterHad you been familiar with The Lone Ranger, before this? 

DALE:  I’ve been trying to figure out what moment The Lone Ranger came into our lives.  We’ve always just known about The Lone Ranger.  It’s common knowledge.  I don’t ever remember watching the television show.  When they told me that The Lone Ranger had an older brother, I was like, “The Lone Ranger’s older brother wasn’t on the TV show!”  Come to find out, he was in the first episode, ever.  He didn’t make it out.

Were there any stunts that you found most challenging?

DALE:  It was dangerous stuff.  We were running on top of moving trains.  We got to do amazing things.  I like doing stuff like that.  I enjoy it.  But believe me, there were things that were so dangerous that I wasn’t touching them.  These stunt guys are good at what they do and they’re professional.  A smart actor will step back and say, “I’m going to let the professionals do this.”  Hats off to those guys, man.  When you see the credits scroll, look at all those stunt guys and remember all those names ‘cause they earned their money on this. 

How was the experience of cowboy boot camp?  Did you go in thinking you could do it, and then realize just how difficult it was?

DALE:  Exactly!  I walked in like, “I’ve got this.  I’ll figure out how to ride a horse.  Give me a week, I’ll figure it out.”  I had no idea.  It was six weeks, for me, on the horse.  It just got me good enough where I could not hurt myself or other people, when I showed up to work.  A six-week cowboy boot camp is also a good time.  Hanging out with a bunch of other actors, trying to learn how to ride horses was a funny sight.  The first day of cowboy boot camp was a funny sight of a lot of stiff actors, trying to trot around on a horse.

The Lone Ranger is now playing in theaters.

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