THE LONE RANGER
Creating Character: The Makeup & the Mask
Academy Award -- winning makeup artist Joel Harlow ("Star Trek," "Alice in Wonderland") has previously
transformed Johnny Depp into the iconic Captain Jack Sparrow in all four "Pirates of the Caribbean" films and
into the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland," among others. Now Harlow and Depp have worked together
to completely reimagine Tonto for "The Lone Ranger." "Johnny and Joel are kindred spirits," observes Jerry
Bruckheimer, "with a love of the offbeat and unusual. They always seem to visually find a way into the heart of
the characters Johnny plays."
Harlow, who took home an Oscar for his imaginative work on J. J. Abrams' "Star Trek" was also the film's makeup
department head, leading a talented department of some 25 workers. And whether attending to the film's stars,
or inventing fantastically bizarre creations ("goat skeleton marionette" or "half-man, half-woman") for the Hell
on Wheels sequence, Harlow and company worked to the very limits of their capabilities -- and beyond. He and
his team were responsible not only for Depp but also for the entire cast, right down to the background players.
The look for Tonto began during the filming of "The Rum Diary" in Puerto Rico during the hot summer of 2009.
"I came across a really interesting painting by Kirby Sattler titled 'I Am Crow,'" recalls Harlow. "I showed it to Johnny, who thought it could be a great inspiration for the character and look of Tonto. Johnny then showed the
image to Jerry and Gore, which really got the fire going."
Sattler's painting shows a Native American warrior with very
strong features, face painted white with four vertical black
stripes on either side of his nose, long hair adorned with
eagle feathers, and most striking, a crow atop his head.
In addition, Harlow wanted to incorporate a cracked-earth
feel. Notes Harlow, "The idea being that Tonto has smeared
this earth on himself and it's dried over a period of time, and
has cracked almost like a mud mask. I could have smeared a
kind of mud mask material on Johnny's face and let it crack naturally, but there's no way that would have held
up and waiting for it to dry would be ridiculous. So what I did was to take a life cast of Johnny, and smear molten
clay on it; in that state it has the same texture as mud. Then I took that off his life cast, molded it, cast it in plaster
and scribed crack marks into it, to turn it into a silicone prosthetic."
As Harlow relates, there were times when Depp would wear his prosthetic Tonto makeup over multiple days
without removing it at wrap, not only because it would save time for the hour-and-a-half makeup process each
day, but also because "this makeup specifically looks better the longer you sleep in it, as long as it's not more
than three days." A prosthetic nose in conjunction with four body pieces and four facial pieces comprised the
look of Tonto, painstakingly manufactured and applied in a process Harlow eventually managed to refine to just
Depp's numerous tattoos were also a challenge for the makeup artist. "Some were period-correct and we were
able to leave them," says Harlow. "Tonto is a nomad, in exile from his Comanche tribe, so we could take some
liberties with his look based on the journey he had undergone since he was a boy. The tattoos that didn't work
were covered with the same sort of mud that covers Johnny's face, which keeps his look consistent." In one case,
a tattoo that began as a temporary makeup -- the jagged lightning bolt on Tonto's hand -- became real when
Depp had the design permanently tattooed partway through production.
The ever-present crow that straddles Tonto's head was also a responsibility of Harlow's department. Some 15
different versions of Tonto's crow were created from a combination of taxidermic, imitation, and sculpted birds
in a subsection of the department known as "the Lab," run by shop supervisor Steve Buscaino and his team. As
for Tonto's long mane, hair department head Gloria Pasqua Casny fabricated the elaborate wig, mysteriously
streaked in the back with what looks suspiciously like bird droppings. Finally, Comanche technical adviser
Wahathuweeka-William Voelker provided the beaded feathers that are knotted into Tonto's hair.
Armie Hammer didn't require quite so much attention in his role as the Lone Ranger, but the hero's all-important
mask was also under the supervision of Harlow's department. "The shape was very important," says Harlow. "I
worked very closely with Gore and Crash McCreery on that because just a little bit of difference in the contours
of the mask and you go from the Lone Ranger to a superhero. Once we got the shape, it became a question of
material, because Tonto uses the murdered Dan Reid's vest to make the mask for his younger brother, John. The
material of the mask needed to match the material of the vest, but also needed to look like its own element. In
the script, the eye holes are cut from bullet holes in the vest, which I thought was genius."
In all, getting the mask to the right place required some 10 different designs and seven fittings with Armie
Hammer. "It's not as easy as just tying a piece of leather to a guy's face," continues Harlow. "That's an iconic image, and you want to make sure that it's
correct through the whole film." As a result,
the actual fabrication of the Lone Ranger's
mask had to be every bit as painstaking
as its design. "The mask is made out of
very soft goat skin leather," explains Lenny
MacDonald, who fabricated the masks in
the Lab. "It was vacuum-formed right over
Armie's face so that it fits nice and skintight.
The leather is heated with warm water, which makes it pliable, and wrinkles are forced into it so it hopefully
looks natural." As always with such designs, there was a period of trial and error. "It's very similar to the iconic
look," MacDonald continues, "but we wanted to make it more realistic than the original, which was pretty much
what you can buy in a costume store."
"The first time I put on the mask," recalls Armie Hammer, "I was in a tailor's back office in Burbank. It was the
first version they made, which didn't fit right. Two or three days later, they came back and said, 'We finished the
mask, come on in.' So I showed up, and it was vacuum-formed and fit my face perfectly. I remember putting it on
and just thinking, 'Damn, this is badass. This is actually going to be very cool.'"
Another actor that Harlow and the makeup department unrecognizably transformed was William Fichtner as
Butch Cavendish. "At first, I messed with the design of Butch's nose tip, and just kept going and sculpted a piece
that had a cleft lip," explains Harlow. "Then, in conjunction with that, we created an effect where we grafted a
piece of wire onto a denture with a silver tooth, then forced up the lip, which reveals the tooth.
"Then, since Gore talked about how he wanted Butch to be reptilian, on the morning of the first day that Bill
started, we got a rattlesnake tail and stuck it in Butch's hair," Harlow continues. "Gore and Bill both loved Butch's
look, and based on that, we decided that each member of the Cavendish Gang would have their own distinctive
physical signatures. For example, Ray, who is played by Damon Herriman, probably has the most extreme
signature of the gang, because he was a victim of a failed hanging. So we sculpted a prosthetic that cuts across
his neck and up the side of his face rather than the back of his head."
Fichtner himself was deeply impressed by his makeup, along with everything else he encountered during his
time on the film. "I've never been more inspired by a first day on a project. Two days after I talked to Gore about
playing Cavendish, I got off the plane in Albuquerque, went right to Horses Unlimited to get on a horse -- which
I hadn't done in 38 years -- only to be told that the first thing they were going to ask me to do was to jump out
of a train onto a galloping horse. Then I went to see the incomparable Joel Harlow, who created a look within a
matter of two hours to which I could only respond, 'Wow!' It's what happens when you have a group of people
who are at the absolute top of their game."
The extravagant look for Helena Bonham Carter's Red Harrington was the result of collaboration between
Harlow's makeup department and hair department head Gloria Pasqua Casny. "We tried to find our own color
and tone for Helena's character, and this went on for a while," says Casny. "Helena had her own ideas about the
color of the wig, and she has a great sense of the character she was playing. The wig that we finally settled on is
30 inches long, and there are extensions that are probably another 25 to 30 inches."
Throughout the production Joel Harlow was impressed by how much creative leeway he and the other
department heads were given. "I can't express how much I appreciate both Gore and Jerry Bruckheimer," adds
Harlow, "because when you have a free flow of ideas, their ideas feed my ideas; it's a back-and-forth creative process. You're not stifled, and you can push the envelope. We were allowed to go crazy."
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