By Alan Prendergast
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By Michael Roberts
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Back in March 2012, Walt Disney studios, along with director Gore Verbinski and stars Johnny Depp (who plays Tonto) and Armie Hammer (who plays the Masked Man himself), descended on the southern Colorado town of Creede to film some scenes for The Lone Ranger, a summer blockbuster hitting theaters on July 3. The crew ended up spending $7 million in the area during eleven weeks of set construction and three weeks of filming, according to the Film in Colorado website.
The casting company working with Disney had advertised that it was seeking "extreme character types — thin, tall, short, skinny, odd features, huge nose, eyes, ears, lazy eye, grizzled and wrinkled faces, odd body types" to play extras; it was also looking for people to play Chinese railroad workers and soldiers in the cavalry. Chad Cochran, whose family has been ranching in the San Luis Valley since the 1870s (around the time that the Lone Ranger character would have been serving justice in the American West), wound up cast as one of the soldiers. "My dad, Jerry, had been in a movie with Willie Nelson back in the day as an extra, so he said we might as well go down and throw our hat in the ring. But it ended up just being me," Cochran says.
"For the first two days, it was kind of a boot-camp thing where they taught everyone how to handle a rifle and act like they had been in the military," Cochran says of the two weeks of filming, most of which took place at night. "After that, we'd show up at 7 p.m. and eat breakfast, and then we'd go to wardrobe and get our hair done and our makeup done and get our props and march up the canyon and shoot all night.
"I had a blast," he continues. "One night, they just shot a few of us over and over and over on the train tracks inside a tunnel. I'd say there were 300 to 400 people up there just for production, running the lights and the smoke and fire and props."
Disney also had a lot of security on hand to keep details about the filming from leaking out. Cochran still isn't sure exactly where in the story his scenes will be — or what was going on from a plot perspective. "Our job was just kind of guarding the train and the infrastructure...and fighting Indians," he says. "I think, in reality, we were probably the bad guys in the movie, but I'm not sure."
He'll have to wait until the movie's release to find out. Cochran and his family are planning to head to Monte Vista or Alamosa to catch The Lone Ranger. And all of Creede is hoping that it turns out better than that Willie Nelson film Cochran's father was in 25 years ago, a made-for-TV bomb called Where the Hell's That Gold?
Scene and heard: The economic trade mission that sent seventy of this state's elected officials and business boosters overseas on United's Dreamliner this week won't end in Japan. Mayor Michael Hancock and a group from the city will spin off for a trip to South Korea, which will include a tour of Incheon International Airport and the surrounding area. Hancock has made the development outside of DIA a focal point of his administration, earning the ire of Adams County officials who say it violates a 1988 agreement that made possible the annexation of land for DIA. Several Adams County leaders, like Aurora mayor Steve Hogan, skipped this week's trip.
And you could fill a Dreamliner with others who've been snubbed along the way at DIA. Incheon was designed by Denver architect Curt Fentress, who also designed our airport's iconic tent-like roof. But when it came time to plan an expansion of DIA and the south terminal, the city instead went with starchitect Santiago Calatrava. And how did that work out? Calatrava ditched the project in September 2011.