Some lucky journalists are going to get an early look at "Rango" footage soon, and I'm curious to hear the reactions to the latest collaboration between Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp.  I know that before they left on their four-month trip, both Toshi and Allen were mesmerized by the "Rango" trailer, asking to see it at least once a day, and in Allen's case, three or four times a day for a week or two.

As Depp wraps up work on "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," his first time playing Captain Jack Sparrow without Verbinski as director, he's looking at spending much of his next year playing with familiar partners.  He recently cemented plans to shoot "Dark Shadows" with Tim Burton at the start of the year, and it sounds like he'll segue right afterwards into "The Lone Ranger," where he'll play Tonto for Verbinski, who will direct from a script by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio with rewrites by Justin Haythe.

It's funny that The Lone Ranger and The Green Hornet are, technically speaking, related.  The characters share a common creator, George W. Trendle, and they share familial bonds that explain why they share the same mask and a fondness for a hyper-capable sidekick.  They are very similar film properties in some regards.  People recognize the iconography of the titles, and they may know some character names like Kato or Tonto, but when it comes down to it, if you asked any random hundred people on the street to tell you the story, they couldn't.  As a result, you've got a lot of latitude for how faithful you have to be in building a modern-day version of the story for audiences.

With "The Lone Ranger," you've got the story of a Texas Ranger, part of a team who are ambushed and slaughtered.  Left for dead, one man is rescued by a native American who nurses him back to health and then becomes his companion as he sets out to dispense justice from behind a mask, a phantom of sorts.  How you play that story could result in a hundred different actual films depending on tone, and so far the only clue we have about what sort of film it's going to be is the casting of Depp as Tonto.  That's a pretty bold move in the year 2010, and I think only someone as beloved as Depp could even think about doing it.

I'm still itching to get a look at "The Rum Diary," the film that Depp made last year with Bruce Robinson, the writer/director of the classic "Withnail & I," and it sounds like this "Lone Ranger" deal is a firm commitment, and not just a development deal.  If so, that means Depp's working with his two most frequent filmmaking collaborators back to back next year.

We'll have more on this one as details emerge, and I expect we'll start seeing lists of guys who would look good on a horse soon as they look for a Ranger to saddle up next to Tonto.  The funniest part of this being "news" is that this is pretty much what everyone expected would happen since Disney announced Depp's casting as Tonto in 2008 at a special press event, and now it feels like the other shoe finally dropped.

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