William Fichtner is no stranger to working in the world of Jerry Bruckheimer. The Lone Ranger is the fourth film that paired the star with the producer behind some of the biggest hits of the last two decades.
Fichtner appeared in his Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down. As seen in The Lone Ranger trailer, this time out… Fichtner got to be bad… really bad. We met Fichtner in Santa Fe, New Mexico to talk about his role as the villain at the heart of the Lone Ranger and Tonto story, Butch Cavendish.
We talk to Fichtner about whether being the bad guy is as good as it seems, what it is he thinks is the key to the success of Bruckheimer and where being part of The Lone Ranger legacy sits in his world.
Movie Fanatic: Is it true what they say, is it fun being bad?
William Fichtner: [Laughs] I’ve heard that expression. Actors say it’s a lot more fun to be the villain. I’ve played characters that are rough in nature before. But, I never really thought about it too much. So, I’m flying in here last night and for whatever reason I started thinking about that… is it more fun? I thought, “It is!” There are levels of depths to all characters, villains tend to be different. Nobody started off that way. Something happens in your life and then you got another plate spinning. The joy as an actor is to go in and try to put those pieces together to figure out who a guy is. But, villains and bad guys tend to have a lot of plates spinning like on the old Ed Sullivan Show. When you got five, six plates going at once… that’s cool!
Movie Fanatic: Also, do you think he sees himself as a villain? Or, is he a man of that time? That’s just how he turned out…
William Fichtner: I read a book when we were making this last summer called Blood and Thunder. It follows the life of Kit Carson, and when you read it, it’s all about this area right here… from Las Vegas to Albuquerque to Santa Fe. It’s right here (points to the ground) before the Wild West. When you read it, a couple of decades before… you see why they called it the Wild West. It was rough. People are rough. It was a rough time. You can’t even look at it by standards of today and what is acceptable behavior. It’s completely different. (Butch) Cavendish is a twisted guy and he’s got his own sensibilities of what’s right and wrong, but he wasn’t the only one around like that.
Movie Fanatic: You’ve worked with Jerry Bruckheimer many times before, and you’re working with him again on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He’s obviously got a secret to his success. But, for you, what is the magic of working on a Jerry Bruckheimer movie?
William Fichtner: I’ve had the pleasure four times, The Lone Ranger being the fourth. We’re both hockey fans and wherever we are on location, at 6:30 a.m. in the morning I will find one other person in the gym and it will be him. Jerry brings a level of excellence to a production. It is the best that I have ever been around. It’s soup to nuts. The people that are around him, these are the people -- producers -- who have worked with him for years. They’re the best. Everything about it… is the highest level that you can have, that a film production can have.
Movie Fanatic: How was it for The Lone Ranger?
William Fichtner: Just knowing I had never done a Western before and Jerry Bruckheimer is producing -- so that’s going to be quite possibly the highest production value on a Western, like ever. Gore Verbinski is an amazing storyteller. Toss in Johnny Depp, the premier character actor on the planet. And a cast that is amazing. That wasn’t a hard choice [laughs].
Movie Fanatic: What was your background with The Lone Ranger? Were you aware of it and where does it fit for you now that you are a part of that legacy?
William Fichtner: I must have missed it. I know people my age that didn’t. That series was late ‘50s or ‘60s. Who wasn’t aware of who the Lone Ranger and Tonto were though? Running around playing cowboys and Indians, that’s what we did when we were kids. You can only imagine how fascinating it was for me to read this, because Gore took the elements of everything about Tonto and the Lone Ranger and the world… the size of his world that he created where this isn’t just a story about Tonto and the Lone Ranger. They’re wonderful. But, they are people in this world. Great directors create a compelling world. And I love this world.