They say movies are like sausages: if you like them, you shouldn’t watch how they’re made, because it’s an ugly process that involves a lot of pigs’ anuses. But around here we disregard conventional wisdom and go behind the scenes of your favorite Hollywood productions, and also of “The Lone Ranger.” The NSA was kind enough to lend us their recording of the boardroom pitch meeting that led to this big-budget extravaganza, a transcript of which is copied below.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: Good afternoon, gentlemen! I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who I am!
DISNEY EXEC #1: No indeed!
DISNEY EXEC #2: We’re very familiar with your work, Mr. Bruckheimer!
DISNEY EXEC #3: Also, you’re carrying a giant sign that says “I’M JERRY BRUCKHEIMER.”
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: I was tired of people not knowing!
DISNEY EXEC #1: As a producer, you’ve been responsible for all kinds of great movies — everything from popcorn blockbusters like “National Treasure” to quiet historical dramas like “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
DISNEY EXEC #2: We’re thrilled you wanted to meet with us! Whatever you’re pitching, we just spent $30 million on it.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: Well, keep those purse strings loose, boys, because this is going to be EXPENSIVE.
DISNEY EXEC #3: Lay it on us!
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: Well, in this era of reboots, remakes, sequels, and franchises, I feel that one iconic character has been overlooked. Fortunately, it happens to be an iconic character that my company has the rights to make a movie about!
DISNEY EXEC #1: Superman?
DISNEY EXEC #2: Gentle Ben?
DISNEY EXEC #3: Mrs. Garrett from “The Facts of Life”?
DISNEY EXEC #1: Richard Nixon?
DISNEY EXEC #3: Mrs. Garrett from “Diff’rent Strokes”?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: No, no… Think older, further back in pop culture…
DISNEY EXEC #2: Tarzan?
DISNEY EXEC #1: Sherlock Holmes?
DISNEY EXEC #2: The Katzenjammer Kids?
DISNEY EXEC #3: Simon Legree?
DISNEY EXEC #1: Tristram Shandy?
DISNEY EXEC #3: Othello?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: Good guesses, but no. It’s staring you right in the face! Think about it: what beloved character from American fiction have people been CLAMORING to see a movie about?
DISNEY EXEC #1: The Lone Ranger!
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: Bingo!
DISNEY EXEC #2: Of course! It’s obvious!
DISNEY EXEC #3: Why, just last week my great-grandmother mentioned how she’d like to see a Lone Ranger movie, as long as it’s a talkie and doesn’t have any “ethnic types.”
DISNEY EXEC #1: I can hardly walk down the street without some 90-year-old man urging me to make more films based on characters from 1930s radio.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: Exactly! It’s a cash cow just waiting to be milked!
DISNEY EXEC #2: What’s your concept for it? A faithful recreation of the classic character just as people remember him wouldn’t work, obviously.
DISNEY EXEC #3: That never works.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Not that we’ve ever tried it.
DISNEY EXEC #3: Well, it doesn’t take a genius to see that when people go to a movie about a fictional character they’ve loved since childhood, the LAST thing they want is for the character to be portrayed the way they remember him.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: No, of course. Our version is going to be different because we’ve got Johnny Depp to star in it.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Johnny Depp as the Lone Ranger??
DISNEY EXEC #2: That doesn’t make any sense at all!
DISNEY EXEC #3: We love it!
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: Not as the Lone Ranger — as Tonto.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Johnny Depp as Tonto??
DISNEY EXEC #2: That makes even less sense!
DISNEY EXEC #3: We love it more!
DISNEY EXEC #1: That’s $300 million domestic right there. People love Johnny Depp!
DISNEY EXEC #2: Audiences are in no way tired of his quirky oddball performances!
DISNEY EXEC #3: A disheartening sense of sameness definitely has not crept into those performances!
DISNEY EXEC #1: He was great in the three “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.
DISNEY EXEC #2: There were four “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Get outta here!
DISNEY EXEC #2: There were!
DISNEY EXEC #1: That can’t be right.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: Now, Johnny has a few stipulations…
DISNEY EXEC #2: The movie has to be bloated, overlong, unnecessarily complicated, yet somehow also simple-minded?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: For starters. He also feels strongly that the Tonto character should be a dignified representative of Native Americans, and he wants to convey this by wearing a dead bird on his head.
DISNEY EXEC #3: Look, we learned a long time ago not to question Johnny Depp’s eccentricities, no matter how forced or self-conscious they may be.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Besides, I think the dead bird on the head matches the original story of Tonto, from the Bible.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: I presume you also know that casting Johnny Depp means casting Helena Bonham Carter.
DISNEY EXEC #2: Oh, yes. We know all about the reverse restraining order they have.
DISNEY EXEC #3: They’re never allowed to be more than 100 feet apart.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: And Ms. Bonham Carter would like to be a prostitute with a wooden leg.
DISNEY EXEC #1: That doesn’t surprise me. Oh, in the movie, you mean.
DISNEY EXEC #2: Not that it really matters when you have Johnny Depp as Tonto, but who did you have in mind for the Lone Ranger?
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: That’s where it gets tricky. We don’t want anyone who will overshadow Johnny by being charismatic or interesting.
DISNEY EXEC #3: Plenty of options there.
DISNEY EXEC #1: I have Paul Walker on speed-dial.
DISNEY EXEC #2: Sam Worthington is looking for a project.
DISNEY EXEC #3: Josh Hartnett has been sitting in the lobby since 2009.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: What about Armie Hammer?
DISNEY EXEC #1: Ha ha, that’s not a real person!
DISNEY EXEC #2: No, it’s the guy who played the Winklevoss twins in the Facebook movie!
DISNEY EXEC #3: Can we afford both of him?
DISNEY EXEC #2: There’s actually just one of him.
DISNEY EXEC #3: That movie was bulls***.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: I think Armie Hammer has just the right mix of bland handsomeness and congenial forgettability.
DISNEY EXEC #1: He’s like the Chris O’Donnell of actors!
DISNEY EXEC #2: OK, you’ve convinced us. Let’s green-light the hell out of this thing.
DISNEY EXEC #3: However much it costs, however long it takes, we’re committed.
JERRY BRUCKHEIMER: That’s great to hear! Oh, one more thing. Johnny really wants there to be a scene where someone cuts out a man’s heart and eats it, and we see the gruesome incident reflected in the eyes of the man’s dying brother.
DISNEY EXEC #1: Now you’re just being silly.