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The Lone Ranger stars Depp, Hammer and the Santa Fe National Forest

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Posted by Lawrence Lujan, Santa Fe National Forest, and Kathryn Sosbe, Office of Communication, U.S. Forest Service


The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer and Helen Bonham Carter opens nationwide in theaters on July 3. The movie shot for 10 days on the Santa Fe National Forest for a fight scene on a train speeding through a tunnel. (Copyrighted photo courtesy Walt Disney Pictures)

The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer and Helen Bonham Carter opens
nationwide in theaters on July 3. The movie shot for 10 days on the Santa Fe National Forest
for a fight scene on a train speeding through a tunnel. (Copyrighted photo courtesy Walt
Disney Pictures)

Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, stars of Disney’s The Lone Ranger debuting July 3, join a long list of formidable Hollywood greats, including Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Taylor and John Wayne, who have acted on the nation’s outdoor soundstage – a national forest.

 

Last year during 10 days of filming on the Santa Fe National Forest in New Mexico, the Gilman Tunnels served as the backdrop for a scene in The Lone Ranger where a train passes through the tunnels.

 

The tunnels, originally blasted out of rock in the 1920s for a railroad, are now used for cars. That meant the filmmakers had to put a railroad engine and rails cars onto separate flatbed trucks, which were driven at moderate speeds through the tunnels during filming. While moving, the actors shot a gunfight scene that also shows them ducking to avoid the roof of the tunnel. Part of the action (enhanced in the editing room) can be seen in the movie’s trailers. The explosion near the entrance of a tunnel was not shot at the Gilman Tunnels.

 

Jeff Harris, a natural resource specialist on the Santa Fe, had a front row seat on the 10-day shoot in the tunnels. Prior to joining the Forest Service in 2010, he gained experienced working on the set of a few shows, including Grizzly Adams, a 1970s television series.

 

The Gilman Tunnels, originally blasted out of the rock in the 1920s for a logging railroad, offer spectacular views of striking mesas. (Jeff Harris/U.S. Forest Service)

The Gilman Tunnels, originally blasted out of the rock in the 1920s for a logging railroad, offer
spectacular views of striking mesas. (Jeff Harris/U.S. Forest Service)

“You go in not really understanding what you are getting into, but you need to be there because there are conditions in the special-use authorization that they have to live by,” he said. “For this particular movie, they were filming in a pretty narrow gorge with a stream cascading down on one side and some old railroad tunnels that were historic but converted to a narrow paved road to get to the boxed canyon.

 

“But it was pretty easy, really. When they wanted to bolt some of their blue screens into the walk you just say, ‘Well, is there any other way to do it?’ And there are always ways.”

 

The Lone Ranger is a modern remake of the classic adventure series of the same name, which aired on radio for 21 years beginning in 1933 and on television for 10 years starting in 1949. All were based on scripts created by Fran Striker, who also created The Green Hornet and Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. Hammer plays the Lone Ranger, played by Clayton Moore on most of the television episodes, and Depp is Tonto, played by Jay Silverheels throughout the televised series.

 

The 2013 Jerry Bruckheimer version of The Lone Ranger included outdoor scenes shot in New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, California and Arizona, including at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. But it’s the magnificently high tunnels on the Santa Fe National Forest that helped to add the drama to that one scene that also featured Rebecca Reid as Ruth Wilson.

 

Requests to film on national forests and grasslands are somewhat routine. However, producers are required to apply for a special-use permit and follow strict guidelines to ensure that film production and related activities – feeding the crew, dressing rooms, etc. – do not hurt the natural environment. Visitor safety also is a concern. If any part of the proposed filming would cause harm to forest resources, those activities are not allowed. During filming, Forest Service employees are on hand to monitor the activity.

 

The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer and Helen Bonham Carter opens nationwide in theaters on July 3. The movie shot for 10 days on the Santa Fe National Forest for a fight scene on a train speeding through a tunnel. (Copyrighted photo courtesy Walt Disney Pictures)

The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer and Helen Bonham Carter opens nationwide in theaters on July 3.
The movie shot for 10 days on the Santa Fe National Forest for a fight scene on a train speeding through a tunnel.
(Copyrighted photo courtesy Walt Disney Pictures)

“Ultimately, it is our job to make sure that the forest and all of its wonderful resources are made available to future generations,” said Maria Garcia, forest supervisor on the Santa Fe.

 

National forests have long been at least bit players in a variety of movies and television shows, whether the genre is traditional cowboy (How the West was Won, 1962, Shawnee National Forest), family (Homeward Bound, 1993, shot on four national forests in Oregon) or science-fiction (The Hunger Games, 2012, Pisgah National Forest).

 

Sometimes the appearance of a national forest is part of one scene. Other times, the national forest plays more of a supporting role, offering breathtaking scenery as people raft down a roaring river or ride horses at break-neck speeds.

 

In 1969, Paul Newman and Robert Redford are train robbers in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, filmed in part on the San Juan National Forest. A few years later, Redford’s “co-stars” were the Ashley, Uinta and Wasatch-Cache national forests in Utah in Jeremiah Johnson (1977), about an American soldier who goes west to escape the Mexican War. And Redford’s stunningly shot A River Runs Through It (1992) contains scenes on the Gallatin National Forest in Montana.

 

National forests also played host to other world-class actors, such as Daniel Day-Lewis (Last of the Mohicans, 1992, Pisgah National Forest); Kevin Costner (Dances With Wolves, 1990, Black Hills National Forest): Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon (The River Wild, 1994, Kootenai National Forest);  and the wonderfully funny trio of Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short (¡Three Amigos!, 1986, Coronado National Forest). Lassie Come Home (1943) showcased a youthful Elizabeth Taylor and Roddy McDowall as well as the San Bernardino National Forest.

 

List of movies filmed on national forests

 

US Forest Service
Last modified June 26, 2013
http://www.fs.fed.us

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