At the time of production, Clayton Moore was still making personal appearances as The Lone Ranger. The Wrather Company, owner of The Lone Ranger character, sued the actor to prevent him from wearing the mask, saying an elderly man didn't represent the character the way he should. Moore continued making personal appearances in costume, wearing oversized sunglasses instead of the mask. After the film flopped, Moore was allowed to make appearances as The Lone Ranger, mask and all. This was parodied in the season 5 of Night Court.
The filmmakers were disappointed with Klinton Spilsbury's line readings, and wanted an actor with a stronger voice. James Keach dubbed his lines.
Stuntman Terry Leonard was badly injured during the horse to stagecoach transfer. His leg got caught under a stagecoach wheel.
President Ronald Reagan, who had starred in westerns, was scheduled to attend the film's premiere. Reagan was shot by John Hinckley a few weeks before the premiere. Reagan sent a video greeting instead.
Stephen Collins, Nicholas Guest, Bruce Boxleitner and Kurt Russell were considered for the male lead.
Lew Grade later wrote he thought the problem was the movie took an hour and ten minutes for The Lone Ranger to put on his mask. "The mistake was not dispensing with the legend in ten minutes, and getting on with the action much earlier on", he said.
Bonita Granville's final film. After her 1930s film career, she married Jack Wrather, producer of The Lone Ranger (1949) and this movie. They were married for 37 years, until Wrather's death in 1984. She also appeared in The Lone Ranger (1956).
Reportedly, casting The Lone Ranger and Tonto took eight months. In the end, two unknown actors were cast.
Publicity for the film stated that The Lone Ranger hadn't appeared in a major film for 23 years. The last time was The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold (1958).
According to media reports, Klinton Spilsbury spent a great deal of time drinking, smoking and brawling off-set during production.
At the time, Director William A. Fraker hadn't directed a movie for eight years. After this movie flopped, Fraker moved to television, but continued to work as a Director of Photography on feature films.
According to cast and crew, Klinton Spilsbury demanded script changes because he had trouble delivering his lines. Spilsbury also demanded that the film be shot in sequential order so he could better portray his character's arc.
Jack Wrather and Bonita Granville bought the rights to The Lone Ranger character and stories in 1978 for a reported $3 million, a record at the time.
Western sets constructed for the film included an outlaw stronghold, an Indian village, a Pony Express station, and an entire town.
After The Magic of Lassie (1978) brought Lassie back to the big screen, Jack Wrather decided this was time for a remake of The Lone Ranger.
The television pilot The Lone Ranger: Enter the Lone Ranger (1949) was based on a screenplay by George B. Seitz Jr. and edited by Fran Striker, who was writer and editor for the television series. In this movie, Amy Stryker takes over as writer and editor of the newspaper from her uncle.
Klinton Spilsbury was cast in the hopes that casting an unknown actor would pay off in the way that Christopher Reeve did in Superman (1978).
Walter Coblenz said of the film's failure: "Looking back, I feel that we were trying to please everyone, from six to sixty. It was too violent for little kids, and not sophisticated enough for an older audience. Maybe we were too intent on staying true to The Lone Ranger story."
The movie flopped so badly, American investors had to salvage ITC by purchasing its remaining stock, then reorganizing the company as part of the newly-formed TriStar Pictures.
When the foreign dignitary is first in President Grant's train car, he is introduced to "Buffalo Bill" Cody, "Wild Bill" Hickok, and Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer, sitting across the booth from Grant. Grant jokingly orders Custer to get up and let the man take his seat, or he will have Custer transferred to Montana. Custer died in eastern Montana, in the Battle of Little Big Horn, also known as Custer's Last Stand.
Jason Robards Jr. has portrayed other American Presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the fictitious President Richard Monkton in Washington: Behind Closed Doors (1977).
William A. Fraker told his crew he wanted the film to evoke the look of Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
At one screening in San Diego, people showed up dressed in The Lone Ranger masks and Western costumes. During the movie, when the Lone Ranger vows to avenge his brother, and the "William Tell Overture" kicks in, the theater erupted. "Sid Sheinberg, (the President of Universal) who was sitting next to me, looked over to me and said, 'It's previewing better than Jaws,'" says Walter Coblenz.
According to Larry McMurtry, author George MacDonald Fraser had written an excellent script for the film, though he is not credited in the finished film.
Although it was customary for previous stars to cameo in a movie where a new actor had taken over their role, Clayton Moore declined to appear in this film, due to the legal action against him.
This film marked the first time Christopher Lloyd working with Matt Clark. They would both appear in another western Back to the Future part III (1990)