"Lone Ranger" star Johnny Depp, left, joins host David Letterman… (Jeffrey R. Staab / Associated…)
Johnny Depp had a near-death experience with a horse on the set of his latest film "The Lone Ranger" that could have left him "horrifically mangled," but he lived to tell the tale. The actor is finally telling his side of the equine story, swinging by the "Late Show With David Letterman" on Thursday to give his fateful account.
In the Disney film, Depp plays Native American warrior Tonto, who rides horses quite a bit in the film. Depp grew up around horses, but said that after a long day of running them at top speed, "everything went very sideways."
It should be noted that the big-budget film, which reunites Depp with "Pirates of the Caribbean" producer Jerry Bruckheimer, had a troubled past of its own. The production was shut down midway through filming and its release date was pushed back over and over. A crew member was also injured and a stunt diver was killed during production. Despite the injury-fraught back story, Depp was still able to laugh about his own experience.
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"We were shooting at a different place in the desert where there's these little bumps and things," Depp, wearing layers of scarves and his signature brimmed hat, told Letterman. "And so the horse that I was on decided to jump a couple of these little obstacles. The horse was unaware that the saddle I was wearing to sit on top of it was jury-rigged, kind of faked ... to give the effect that I'm riding bareback. So basically it's not very tight on the horse. So when we came down, the saddle slipped and I went to the left and had the reins here and somehow had the wherewithal to grab the mane of the horse. All very calm for some reason, I figured that fear would kick in but it didn't. I was waiting," he said with a laugh.
Depp was reportedly dragged 25 yards with the horse.
"All I saw in front of my eyes were these very muscular horse legs and striations of muscles moving, this kind of death machine. One word popped into my head: Hooves. Mind the hooves."
"So, what do you do when you're in that position?" Letterman asked.
"Well you make a decision: Will I go with the beast until someone wrangles it or will I drop? You know, It's a crapshoot," the actor said.
"And what did you choose?"
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"I dropped," Depp said straight-faced. "It landed on my back, hit the deck pretty hard and the one thing that saved me was the horse's instinct to lift his front legs and go over me, step over me. Had he not, it was coming straight down into the head."
Eek! A world with no Johnny Depp? Not OK. And Letterman seemed to agree.
"Honest to God, where are the stunt people for heaven's sakes? You're Tonto! You don't need that!" he retorted.
"Well, that's the exact same question I asked," Depp said. He later performed "Anything Made of Paper" with Bill Carter & the Blame on the show.