Standing on a rickety platform at the edge of a mountain in Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park, actor and San Antonio business owner Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”) could see straight down into the canyon 2,000 feet below. The shot for the action/adventure film “The Lone Ranger,” in which Hammer plays the title role, was captured from a helicopter that whizzed by the 26-year-old star with such force, it would’ve blown him off if it hadn’t been for the harness strapped to him. Hammer’s wife Elizabeth Chambers, who opened Bird Bakery in Alamo Heights 15 months ago with her husband, stood on the set watching the perilous feat transpire.
“I think she was concerned,” Hammer, 26, told me during a phone interview earlier in June to talk about “The Lone Ranger,” which hit theaters July 3. “But we had a really good crew standing around telling her, ‘Don’t worry! Nothing’s gonna happen to him!’”
The rising movie star, fledgling stuntman, pastry aficionado, and all-around nice guy talks with me about Texas and Tonto.
I just took a trip to Bird Bakery this weekend and was a little disappointed there weren’t any “Lone Ranger”-themed cupcakes. What gives?
(Laughs) We have to wait until the movie comes out! “Lone Ranger” cupcakes coming soon. We have to pace ourselves.
You and Elizabeth seem to really be making things work here in San Antonio with the new business. Do you feel like the community has embraced you?
Oh, absolutely. We couldn’t appreciate the entire city of San Antonio more. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. We really couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
Now be honest, how much of taking on the role of the Lone Ranger, who is an ex-Texas Ranger, was due to the fact that you’re back to being a Texan and wanted more street cred?
(Laughs) Definitely all of it. I had lived in Texas before [Dallas]. I was very familiar with the lore of the Texas Rangers, so when I got the role I was like, “This is great!” The first thing I did was call my father-in-law in San Antonio, who knows everything about Texas history, and was like, “Bill, tell me everything!” He gave me a full rundown.
In “The Lone Ranger,” you’re taking on a pretty iconic character that has been around since the 1930s. Did you consider his long history when you joined the film?
Most definitely. I really had to pay attention to the long history because that is what made this project what it is. There are generations of people who hear the William Tell Overture and go right back to their childhood, whether it was sitting in front of a television or radio. We really wanted to pay attention to all that history so we could bring authenticity into this new adaptation.
We’re in a cinematic era where superhero movies are a rampant part of the industry. Do you hope people will consider the Lone Ranger a breath of fresh air since he’s a hero that doesn’t rely on superpowers?
You nailed it. He’s not a superhero. A superhero doesn’t have to eat. A superhero doesn’t get tired or weak. A hero knows he might get hurt, but he does it anyway.
In the past, Native American groups have considered Tonto politically incorrect. Did you worry about that or the fact Johnny Depp is a non-Native American playing the role?
I didn’t really think about it. When we were making the movie, it was just a bunch of actors — white guys, native guys — having a great time. As far as Johnny goes, he is 100 percent Comanche now. He’s been adopted by the tribe. He also has Cherokee blood in him. I don’t think they made a bad choice.
How much of reviving this character includes introducing him to a new generation?
We’d love to introduce him to a new generation. There are so many people who grew up with “The Lone Ranger,” but their kids might not know about it. If they tried to show their kids the originals today, they would probably be bored. We wanted to come up with a way to tell this great story and have it appeal to them.