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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 90 minutes.

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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