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Was it his inner Native American calling? Reports are that Johnny Depp, the Kentucky-born superstar of mixed German, Cherokee and Irish ancestry, has agreed to play Tonto in a new version of "The Lone Ranger." He'll be collaborating again with the director of "Pirates" movies 1, 2, and 3, Gore Verbinski. We liked it better when Depp was talking about remaking "The Thin Man" with his "Pirates 4" director, Rob Marshall. But Depp has often been at his best when confounding expectations, and a strait-laced saga like that of the party-masked Texas Ranger and his trusted Indian sidekick could use a dose of Depp's inspired comic anarchy.

In other pop franchise news, Depp's "Public Enemies" costar, Christian Bale, has said that his third Batman movie may be his last. I generally like Bale's acting, but I never thought he got any traction on Batman (he seemed more effective to me as Bruce Wayne). He may be a terrific character actor who just isn't comfortable in the kinds of roles that a performer like Depp can make his own in -- and with -- the twinkle of an eye.

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To see both at their best, give "Public Enemies" a look this long weekend. Depp goes all the way portraying Depression bank robber John Dillinger as a wry, wily Midwesterner; he gives a performance equally alert and emotional. (That's Depp in his Dillinger duds, above.) He really nails this character -- the scion of an age of speed who says he wants "everything" and wants it "right now." Bale plays Melvin Purvis, the man J. Edgar Hoover chose to head up his Chicago office, bag Dillinger, and thus prove the worth of the FBI to a doubting FDR and Congress. Bale gives an admirable, self-effacing performance as a man who sees himself getting in over his head, inch by inch.

What do you think of the turns that Depp's and Bale's careers have taken? Do you think Depp's Tonto will be an embarrassment or a gas? Who would you like to see as a post-Bale Batman?

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