(CNN) — As the director of “Pirates of the Caribbean” Nos. 1, 2 and 3, filmmaker Gore Verbinski is intimately familiar with the massive needs of a potential summer blockbuster.
The explosions have to be bigger; the scenes more captivating; the action sequences more believable and awe-inspiring.
“I think every director who’s making a big movie this summer has gone through the same thing,” Verbinski told CNN’s Nischelle Turner. “That’s what audiences expect, and you’ve gotta be really entertaining. It’s competition.”
On July 3, Verbinski will enter the summer box office race not with pirates, but cowboys. With Jerry Bruckheimer producing (as he’s done with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, among several other top Hollywood titles), Verbinski has enlisted Armie Hammer and “Pirates” star Johnny Depp to help him reinvent and tell the origin story of the masked seeker of justice.
“The Lone Ranger,” which just released its fourth trailer on Wednesday, was shot over five months across Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and California. It was a strenuous, stressful undertaking as the crew pulled 18-hour days in places such as Rio Puerco, a location so arid “we’re still getting dust out of our ears and nose and eyes,” Verbinski said.
“Nobody understands how difficult it is actually to do it,” Bruckheimer added. “The grueling hours, the lack of sleep. [Verbinski’s] always looking for another location — he lost a location, he’s got to shoot something else the next day, an actor’s sick. … It’s just unbelievable that you’re running this thing for a number of months and you’re moving an army five states.”
All in the name of the summer blockbuster. And the locations, which were painful but necessary to endure given that “The Lone Ranger” is a Western, were just half the challenge. Verbinski, it seems, wasn’t willing to settle for a fake locomotive — those trains you see roaring through the TV spots were man-made.
“Everything is real,” Bruckheimer said. “Gore doesn’t like to do it with the visual effects, so those guys are really on the train, the train is actually moving, it’s not a CG shot — so everything you see here is real. So it had to be built. You can’t imagine how many people it takes just to keep the train running; to get the stunt guys to keep the guys on top of the train; the rigging so they’re all safe and the amount of extras [to be] the people in the background; it’s just a lot.”
Is it any wonder that, on a scale of difficulty ranging from 1-10, Verbinski puts making “The Lone Ranger” at an “11”?
“Eleven, definitely. This is the hardest movie,” Verbinski said. “I mean, hats off to [‘Stagecoach,’ ‘Searchers’ director] John Ford and [‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ director] Sergio [Leone] and all those kinds who make these Westerns because they’re really hard. I mean we all know what a train looks like and we all know what horses look like and it’s not a giant robot or a flying saucer, so what are you going to [do], put someone against a blue screen?”
That’s not to say that the popcorn sci-fi flicks are more forgiving, because “there are no easy movies — those movies are really hard too,” Verbinksi said. “But we know what that [Western] reality looks like, there’s a whole language that’s been established about what we know and feel from real horses and real dirt and real trains, and they’re hard movies. This movie has Comanche and cavalry and trains, and we went and shot in five states. It’s a big movie.”
But by now, “big” is just what we expect from Verbinski, and especially when paired with Bruckheimer, and they’re hoping “The Lone Ranger” will come across as an explosive, fresh take on a familiar story.
“[Verbinski] makes big movies and that’s what audiences love and that’s why summer movies become blockbusters, because you give them a lot of punch for their 10 or 12 bucks,” Bruckheimer said. “[We’re] reinventing the tale of the Lone Ranger, but starting with the origin. It’s the origin story, told through Tonto’s point of view, who’s not quite accurate with what he remembers, so it’s a lot of fun.”
CNN’s JD Cargill contributed to this report.
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