"The Lone Ranger," and Tonto, ride again!

(CBS News) "Who was that masked man?" The Lone Ranger, of course, played on TV for many years by the late Clayton Moore. This week, there's a new Lone Ranger in town -- and a new Tonto, too, played by Johnny Depp. Our Lee Cowan has tracked him down:


Johnny Depp seems to live in the characters our childhood memories are made of. He not only brought a Disney theme ride to life (as Captain Jack Sparrow, in "Pirates of the Caribbean"); he also embodied the Mad Hatter of "Alice in Wonderland," and Willie Wonka.

But his latest role may be the most familiar character he's ever taken on. He plays Tonto in Disney's "The Lone Ranger," out this week.

"How tough a role was it to play compared to everything else you've done?" Cowan asked.

"Hopefully, whatever you're approaching has some kind of, you know, tightrope element, you know?" Depp replied.

"You like it when it's a bit dangerous?"

"I think if you don't feel that, if you don't feel some kind of -- not fear necessarily, but, you know, the possibility of just falling flat on your face, I think you must challenge that," Depp said.

Kirby Sattler's "I Am Crow," a painting which inspired Johnny Depp's interpretation of Tonto in "The Lone Ranger" (with Armie Hammer, right).
sattlerartprint.com/Disney
And challenge he did. Tonto's curious, bird-on-the-head look was all Depp's creation. He was inspired by an painting by American artist Kirby Sattler, called "I Am Crow."

Director Gore Verbinski loved the look, bird and all.

But getting the Lone Ranger to ride again would prove to be no easy task.

"Well! I think it was shot in the head four times and dead a few times," Verbinski told Cowan.

He credited producer Jerry Bruckheimer -- a lifelong fan of Westerns - with rescuing the project. "I mean, Jerry was unbelievable," he said. "Jerry got down on his hands and knees and resuscitated this beast."

Bruckheimer told Cowan he was into "the whole cowboy thing" as a kid. "I got pictures of me with a cowboy hat on and six guns and britches and a vest," he said.

He was sold on "The Lone Ranger" -- and Disney was, too. But this Lone Ranger tale is told from Tonto's perspective.

"We've created a much different character than you saw initially," Bruckheimer said.

Was that a conscious choice? "Absolutely," said the producer. "Tonto was the servant of the Lone Ranger -- 'Yes, sir!' It's NOT that now. I mean, Tonto has his own demons and his own story to tell in this."

WEB EXTRA VIDEO: Johnny Depp and "Lone Ranger" director Gore Verbinski on how the actor came up with the look and attitude of Tonto.

It's been 80 years since Tonto and the Lone Ranger first galloped onto the airwaves to the William Tell Overture. It first aired on Detroit radio station WXYZ, with Brace Beemer as the masked man's voice through most of the show's run, which lasted nearly 3,000 episodes in all.

But then came TV.

Actor Clayton Moore became synonymous with the Lone Ranger, saddling up next to Jay Silverheels as Tonto. Together, from 1949 until 1957 they brought truth and justice to the Old West.

But they also raised a few eyebrows from generations of Native Americans.

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