Johnny DeppAfter conquering the seven seas -- and the box office -- with the blockbuster 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise, Johnny Depp, super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski have now set their sights on the Wild West, with reports that the trio are looking to reinvigorate the long-gestating 'Lone Ranger' series with a new Disney film.

After news broke yesterday that Verbinski is in talks to helm the project, with Depp in line for the role of the Ranger's loyal companion, Tonto, the wheels in our heads started turning, wondering who might be the next actor to slip on that iconic mask and call "Hi-yo Silver!" before riding off into the sunset.

"Who is that masked man," you ask? Join us after the jump for our top five choices.
Rumors of a 'Lone Ranger' reboot have been circulating for years, but after Verbinski, Bruckheimer et al managed to resurrect the flagging pirate genre, it makes sense that they'd turn their attention to the equally misunderstood Western oeuvre, which is way past due for a comeback.

The legendary character hasn't graced movie screens since 1981, when the critically derided 'The Legend of the Lone Ranger' sunk at the box office. The character resurfaced on The WB in 2003, for a two-hour TV movie that was intended to kickstart the franchise. In it, the Lone Ranger was played by 'One Tree Hill' star Chad Michael Murray, but unpopular changes to the character's back story and unenthusiastic reception saw the project shelved. But nothing stays dead in Hollywood, and now comes the giddy, breathless period of speculation in which every name under the sun can be considered, rumored and rejected before Verbinski and his team make an official announcement. So, to get the ball rolling, here are five of our favorites:

Jon Hamm
The blue-eyed, lantern-jawed Hamm is certainly a man's man (as well as being the ultimate ladies' man), having made a career trading on his commanding presence and imposing stature as Don Draper on AMC's 'Mad Men'. We're sure that no damsel in distress would turn down a rescue from Hamm were he to don the Lone Ranger's cowboy hat and head out west, and his impressive performance in 'The Town' helped convince us that he can play a noble man of the law as well as a self-destructive, drunken womanizer -- good to know!
"Yeehaw!" or "Woah, Nellie"? While our first instinct is to holler "yeehaw!" and tell Hamm to saddle up, at 39 years old, we're not certain that he's sprightly enough to star in a Disney movie (Johnny Depp and Jack Sparrow are exceptions to every rule), and while we know he can smolder and intimidate from Madison Avenue to Boston, we don't know if he could pull off the stunts that will doubtless be required for the Ranger's triumphant return to our screens.

Josh Brolin
OK, so the last time Brolin went Western, what resulted was 'Jonah Hex' ... and the less said about that the better. Still, Brolin has proved that he's not afraid of saddle sores and he can squint into the sun with the best of 'em, so we know he'd be comfortable palling around in the desert with Johnny Depp.
"Yeehaw!" or "Woah, Nellie"? We're calling "woah, Nellie!" on Brolin -- while he seems comfortable enough on a dependable steed, we think he might be all cowboy'ed out after 'Hex' and the release of the Coen Brothers' 'True Grit,' a remake of John Wayne's 1969 revenge tale, in which Brolin plays a man on the wrong side of the law. While that graveled drawl is perfect for playing types like Jonah Hex and the villainous Tom Chaney, we picture the newest Lone Ranger as more of a clean-cut, all-American hero, similar to how Clayton Moore played him in the beloved ABC series, and Brolin might just be too menacing to pull that off.

Tom HardyTom Hardy
It's become something of a running joke around the hallowed halls of Moviefone that your faithful writer has a slight Tom Hardy fixation, but hear me out on this one. We know he's British, but after witnessing his chameleonic roles in 'Bronson' and 'Stuart: A Life Backwards,' we're fairly certain that there's nothing Hardy can't do, and he's certainly rugged enough to bring sexy back to the Wild West. If you're that way inclined, you can't deny how good Hardy would look in a cowboy hat and chaps, right?
"Yeehaw!" or "Woah, Nellie"? A "yeehaw" would be pretty much a no-brainer for us, if it wasn't for the fact that Hardy (kind of like Johnny Depp) seems to be starring in everything these days. As if his high profile part in Christopher Nolan's upcoming 'The Dark Knight Rises' wasn't enough, he's supposedly also scored a supporting spot in 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,' landed a major role in 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,' and is also set to star in the long-delayed 'Mad Max' reboot. Simply put, if Verbinski wants to get this project off the ground before 2013, Hardy probably isn't the guy for him.

Timothy OlyphantTimothy Olyphant
We're not just basing this on the fact that Olyphant can rock a cowboy hat like nobody's business, but you've got to admit -- the guy can rock a cowboy hat like nobody's business. Olyphant has experience playing a lawman thanks to his role as U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens on the FX drama 'Justified,' where his character prides himself on behaving like a sheriff from the Old West; sounds like he'd be right at home alongside Tonto.
"Yeehaw!" or "Woah, Nellie"? As good as he looks in that hat, at 42, Olyphant is older than Hamm (though not too far off 47-year-old Depp) and we're betting that the Disney crowd might not buy in to two fourtysomethings chasing around the countryside without some fresher meat for eye candy -- stranger things have happened in Hollywood, but for now, we're sadly sounding a "woah, Nellie," on Olyphant. Perhaps Verbinski should put a call in to his younger clone, Shane West? Either that, or one of West's network compatriots ...

Jensen AcklesJensen Ackles
Unless you're part of the CW set or have an unhealthy fixation with 'My Bloody Valentine 3D,' you might be unfamiliar with Ackles, but this 32 year old is living proof that God gives with both hands, with killer looks and bucketfuls of talent to match. As demon-hunting Dean Winchester on 'Supernatural,' Ackles is used to kicking ass and saving the day, even if his transport of choice is a black '67 Impala instead of a white horse named Silver. He'd also have the iconic Texas Ranger's accent down pat, since he's a native of Dallas; sounds like fate to us.
"Yeehaw!" or "Woah, Nellie"? Ackles is a definite "yeehaw!" for us (steady, girls). While he's far from a household name at this point, with Depp and the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' production team on board, Verbinski doesn't necessarily need another A-list actor to carry the show, and one just has to glance at Ackles' criminally overlooked work on 'Supernatural' and James Cameron's short-lived 'Dark Angel' to see his star quality. It's a definite long-shot, but Ackles has been quoted as saying his dream role would be to star in a Western, and our dream is to see Johnny Depp and Jensen Ackles on screen together, so it seems like a win-win.

What do you think of our choices, 'fone fans? Could you see one of these actors as Disney's next Lone Ranger, or do you have a better suggestion in mind? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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categories Features, Hot Topic