Of the fame his Lone Ranger role will bring him, Hammer jokes of co-star Johnny Depp: "I'm just ducking behind him, letting absorb it all."
Peter Mountain/Disney Enterprises, Inc.
“It wasn’t expected,” he says, in a way that suggests it’s a drastic understatement. “It definitely wasn’t smiled upon at first, until I was able to really prove, like, I’m not leaving school because I’m just lazy and I want to quit. I’m leaving school because my last year and a half is going to be ceramics and woodshop, and I don’t want to make a Rube Goldberg machine for three months. I’d rather go out there and start studying acting, which is what I know I want to do.”

Seventeen is incredibly young to be so sure of what you want to do with your life. Heck, 26 is young to be so sure of what you want to do with your life. But Armie’s conviction hasn’t wavered since he got his Screen Actors Guild card — not when work was slow to come again after The Social Network, not when he realized he hates watching himself on-screen (“It’s like listening to yourself on voice mail — That’s what I sound like?”), not when he discovered less attractive parts of this business he hadn’t anticipated. Photo shoots, for instance. “It’s exactly what you would think it would feel like when someone points a big camera at you for seven hours and says, ‘OK, pose,’ ” he laughs. And parties. While admitting they’re “as glamorous as they seem from the outside — they’re actually that cool,” he backs off, saying, “I don’t know, I’m not a party guy.”

The part he takes seriously is the work, even when — as with his latest film, the blockbuster Disney reboot of The Lone Ranger — the work involves getting thrown off trains while wearing a leather mask that’s been painstakingly fitted to your face so that it exposes enough, but not too much, of your sky-blue eyes and mile-long eyelashes. Getting to play the film’s titular role meant more to Armie than it would to most 20-­somethings, having watched it as a kid with his father, who called him ­“kemosabe.” But Armie is confident that more 20-­somethings — and more teenagers, and more septuagenarians, too — will care about the character after seeing the modernized version. “There’s something in there for everyone, from people who used to listen to the radio serials to people who watched the TV show to people who’ve never heard of The Lone Ranger in their entire life,” he says.

Saddling up alongside Armie is Johnny Depp, who plays Tonto, adding yet another name to the all-star roster of actors and directors Armie has had the good fortune to work with in his short career. During our chat, he marvels about how surprisingly normal most of his big-name co-stars have been. When it comes to Depp, however, it’s clear that normal isn’t the right adjective. Down to earth? Yes. Kind? Definitely. Talented beyond words? Without a doubt. But normal? Maybe not.

“He’s one of those dudes that you might stop by and visit him, and Keith Richards, Joe Perry and just the most random group of legendary rock stars will be there hanging out in Johnny’s place, just jamming,” he says. He pauses, then offers: “He’s like one of those parties: He’s as cool as you’ve built him up to be.”

Armie also has high praise for his Lone Ranger director, Gore Verbinski, who Armie says was subject to his incessant questioning. On every set he’s worked on, the aspiring director tries to pick up kernels of knowledge: Why that lens? Why that technique? “I’m sure it’s annoying and they’re thinking, ‘All right new guy, get out of here, I’m trying to do my job,’ ” he laughs.

New guy that he is, Armie admits to some nerves with the debut of his first leading-man role since a 2008 Billy Graham biopic that even he concedes no one saw. Fortunately, the top brass has no doubts about putting their project — one with lucrative franchise potential — on his broad, capable shoulders.

“He’s very smart, and he’s a very studied, gifted actor,” says Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced The Lone Ranger. “When you saw him on-camera and you saw how gifted he was as an actor, you knew you had the right guy.”