British actress Ruth Wilson tackles her first major Hollywood studio film with a starring role in Disney's The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. Wilson plays Rebecca Reid, a wife and mother who's married to one brother (James Badge Dale) and loved by the other (Hammer), in this film which marks Wilson's introduction to playing a character in a Western. Director Gore Verbinski helped Wilson prepare by providing music to help her get into the mood as well as suggesting films to watch in order to get into the Western spirit.
The Lone Ranger opens in theaters on July 3, 2013 and in support of its upcoming theatrical release I had the opportunity to chat one-on-one with Wilson about being a part of this Disney film.
How familiar were you with Westerns in general before you did The Lone Ranger?
Ruth Wilson: "Not particularly. I'd watched a few when I was younger. My dad made me watch all sorts like Dirty Dozen and all that; like kind of the classic ones. Or The Magnificent Seven, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, sort of various versions of Westerns. Then when I got the job I went back and watched a lot more."
Which ones did you watch?
Ruth Wilson: [Laughing] "This is when I go I have to remember what they are. There's some great ones. I've got a list of them I watched about five Westerns that Gore told me to watch and that other people had mentioned. I've got a friend who's in the film with me called Harry Treadaway who plays one of the baddies, we'd sit and watch films together or Westerns. We watched a big documentary called The West which is also a brilliant documentary that just travels or pans through the history of the West, and it is fascinating. We all watched that and listened to music by Johnny Cash. That's the kind of stuff that gets you into the world.
Gore put together an album for me which was just music that he would say sort of influenced his idea of what the Western was. We had lots of that and we had cowboy camp for two weeks. We got kind of visually and also immersed into the world that we were supposed to be a part of."
Before you signed up for this, what was your overall opinion of the genre?
Ruth Wilson: "I loved it. One of my favorite films was The Magnificent Seven...and Butch Cassidy. I loved the kind of humor that often comes out and the bonding, but also the idea of the lonesome warrior or lonesome man on his journeys.
I have to remember this film, I can't for the life of me remember the title of it but it's about the idea of the cowboy versus new technology and having to face up to metal and cars and the idea that progress is being made but actually at the detriment of what constitutes being a cowboy and what constitutes living in that environment. All of those themes. I mean I'd never really, as a kid, I don't think they really came through for me. But suddenly when you research it and you're watching it again, there's so much meat to it. It's about the beginning of modern America and the formation of modern America. Reading all the books about it, the Texas Ranger book and all these other books which were kind of outlining all the different influences, you've got the Native Americans, you've got the cowboys, you've got the Spanish and the Mexicans, and it's just this kind of melee and melting pot of all these different cultures and attitudes and it clashes, and it's fascinating.
The wealth of the material of what created America is huge, like prime for dramatization. You think no wonder it keeps getting redone and I think it's about time we go back to it because it's so relevant. What this film does, what you see is it talks about greed and corruption and the idea of technology and progress, and all of that's really to the detriment of how we live our lives now and to morals and civilization. I think there's so much in it and I think it's a fascinating world. It really is."
How tough is it to step back into a world that didn't have cell phones, computers, iPads, etc?
Ruth Wilson: "Quite hard when we're surrounded by things everywhere which make my life easier and when you're on set you've got a trailer and you've got a craft truck with all the vegan food which there is. This is why I think you play each moment that you play, so you're in the moment of the scene that's more an emotional connection rather than the idea of not having a phone. I mean it's more about the person you're connecting to because phones don't exist and that sort of communication didn't exist. It's really about the relationships between people, and that's universal. You can relate to that wherever you are. So you bring in that rather than there's no air conditioning or something. It's that you still believe in the moment of the scene which is between two people or three people or whatever it is."
How easy was it for you to connect with your character?
Ruth Wilson: "The way I saw it, it was just a woman who has to survive in a man's world and we're still doing that, women, I feel. She's a woman that has made choices in her life or made a choice in the circumstances that she was in. She makes those choices and then deals with the consequences where her husband is not the man she hoped he'd be or turns out to be or she loses her husband, and this man that she has unacquainted love for comes back into her life. I think all that is very human. All of us have experienced various forms of that in our life. You can relate, again, to these human universal issues and themes that those characters deal with, or the things they have to deal with."
You had to be the only woman taking part in the cowboy boot camp and the training. How was that experience?
Ruth Wilson: [Laughing] "I was fine with men. I know how to deal with men. I grew up with lots of men and I'm a bit of a tomboy. I like doing activities. It doesn't intimidate me. I actually quite enjoy all that stuff. For me, it wasn't an issue and there were lots of women around because they were doing the lovely tea and they're doing my hair and makeup and costumes. You were never far from women; I mean they were everywhere. It wasn't like I wasn't in the environment full of women. Actually I spent more time with all the women who were helping me than I did with the boys on the set. It was what I was used to, really."
How was the stunt training? Did you handle it well?
Ruth Wilson: "Yes. I loved it. I kind of really enjoy that stuff and I quite like being scared. Those moments where you have to throw yourself off things it was always fun."
You like being scared?
Ruth Wilson: "Yes."
What's your biggest fear? Heights?
Ruth Wilson: "Heights are not so bad. Sharks. I've done shark diving because I wanted to face my shark fear. It didn't really work. I just have shark dreams a lot and so I wanted to face them. I don't know. Maybe something like bungee jumping or something like that might scare me. The idea of having to push yourself off, that's pretty scary. I just like being in an environment where I've never done something before and I have to do it."
It challenges you.
Ruth Wilson: "Yes. For me, those stunts were quite exciting. Obviously the first time you do something you're so scared, you don't know... You're so safe, they look after you in a way that you're completely safe, but you don't really know what's going to happen. It still seems stupid throwing myself off a train. That's not natural. It's not a natural instinct. Once you've done it once, then it all becomes really fun."
How much of the train action sequence did you do?
Ruth Wilson: "A lot of it. Most of it. We had a stunt double, Leanne, who was lovely and she was brilliant. But Gore wanted us to do as much of it as possible so he could get the natural reaction. He wouldn't have to shoot around it. I did loads of it. I hung upside down off a train and I was pushed off a train. I landed on a horse, riding it. I did most of it; hanging on the side of the train. Lots of it was when they were going 40 miles per hour and standing on top of it. It was fun. But we were wired in and were looked after and made to feel very safe."
So now you're going to look for scripts with lots of action scenes?
Ruth Wilson: [Laughing] "Yes. I'm certainly kind of quite keen to do a bit more of it. I really enjoyed it."
Was it what you thought it was going to be like doing action sequences?
Ruth Wilson: "No. I was quite worried about it because I just didn't know how I was going to be able to act at the same time as doing the stunts. I thought it would be really technical, and part of it is technical but you're in the moment and because you're doing it for real, you don't have to act. You realize quite quickly actually it's all instinctive; you're doing everything naturally anyway."
When you're supposed to be screaming, you are really screaming.
Ruth Wilson: "Yes - and you're enjoying it at the same time. No, it was a lot easier than I thought and a lot more fun than I thought. The stunt team was brilliant."
What was the most difficult thing you had to learn for the film?
Ruth Wilson: "I didn't have to learn anything. I suppose I had to drive a wagon. That was pretty hard, but I quite enjoyed it. Again, I preferred that than actually riding a horse. I prefer being slightly off the horse and seeing it from a distance. I really enjoyed that. Yes, probably wagon driving."
Can you talk about working with Gore Verbinski?
Ruth Wilson: "He's amazing. He's got an amazing vision. He knows exactly what he wants to shoot. Every day he draws on a kind of whiteboard the shot list in pen so you know exactly what you're shooting each day. In terms of being an actor [on his set], he's brilliant because he does a grand scale, but for the intimate moments he comes in and he wants as much as he can get out of those moments. He wants it to be as truthful and as honest as possible. He can do both. He does the big grand scale but he comes in for the intimate moments and where it matters; the emotional key points matter, he'll get there, and he wants you to get there. He's brilliant to work with. I really enjoyed him. And a lot of fun."
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(Photos ęDisney Enterprises, Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer Inc.)