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'The Lone Ranger' rides again in New Mexico

Lone Ranger Depp

The masked vigilante is back in the saddle. After suspending production last summer over budgetary concerns, Walt Disney Studios started rolling the cameras on “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp, in New Mexico this week.

“They’re doing studio soundstage work through March and then location work around the state after that,” said New Mexico Film Office director Nick Maniatis.

The film will shoot in Albuquerque Studios, in the Rio Puerco Valley, and near Silver City while in New Mexico. Filming will also take place in Arizona, Utah and Colorado, according to a statement from Disney.

The revival of "The Lone Ranger" comes at a welcome time for New Mexico, which saw a sharp falloff in film activity last year when the future of its tax incentive program was thrown into question (the state kept its 25% film tax rebate, but imposed a funding cap on the program).  Sony Pictures Imageworks announced this week that it would close its visual effects unit in Albuquerque in part because of the decline in film production in the state.

A retelling of the popular 1950s television western series, "The Lone Ranger" stars Armie Hammer as the western hero and Depp as his Native American sidekick, Tonto. The movie is scheduled to be released in theaters on May 31, 2013.

Production was originally scheduled to start in October, but in August Disney shelved the film until producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski found a way to trim the budget to around $210 million from an estimated $250 million to $275 million.

Set construction near Silver City came to a stop and workers were laid off due to the halt. Crew members are now glad to be back at work, said Jon Hendry, business agent for Local 480 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents crew members in New Mexico.

“I estimate 350 to 400 [New Mexicans] are working on the film,” Hendry said. “We're happy they're hiring New Mexicans."

RELATED:

'The Lone Ranger' is out of the saddle 

Lone Ranger may get back in the saddle soon 

Disney shuts down production of 'Lone Ranger'

-- Dima Alzayat

Photo: John Hart played the Masked Man during part of "The Lone Ranger's" television run in the 1950s (Clayton Moore starred in most episodes) and Jay Silverheels played Tonto. Credit: Boyd Magers collection

 
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