LOS ANGELES – If it weren’t for the movie “Home Alone,” Armie Hammer might not be starring in “The Lone Ranger.” Seeing the 1990 Macaulay Culkin hit inspired Hammer to become an actor.

“I had a dream that night that I was the kid in the house with the blowtorch and all that stuff and thinking, ‘This is awesome! I love acting!”‘ said Hammer, recalling the thoughts of his 11-year-old self. “I knew this was for me. It was the only thing I wanted to do.”

He convinced his parents to let him quit high school to pursue his dream, and now the 26-year-old actor is playing one of the most revered American characters in a big-budget blockbuster starring Johnny Depp.

After a bumpy start that included a brief return to school, he already counts Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts and David Fincher among his past collaborators. Hammer gained notice playing the Winklevoss twins in 2010′s celebrated “The Social Network.” Then he earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for his supporting role in 2011′s “J. Edgar.” But with “The Lone Ranger,” the actor steps squarely into the spotlight with his first bona fide leading-man role.

Though Hammer auditioned for the part several times, director Gore Verbinski knew immediately he’d found his Lone Ranger.

“When I first met him, I just knew he was the guy,” said Verbinski, who likened Hammer to “somebody who’s a little out-of-time, like seeing Gary Cooper walk into a supermarket or something.”

Said Verbinski: “Armie’s tall, handsome and genuine, and who doesn’t want to throw that into a meat grinder?”

Papparazzo: Bieber hit me with flying kick

LOS ANGELES – Justin Bieber has been sued by a paparazzo who claims the singer kicked and punched him last year at a Southern California shopping center.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges the “Baby” crooner attacked Jose Osmin Hernandez Duran after Bieber and his then-girlfriend went to the movies at The Commons in Calabasas.

Duran claims Bieber started to leave the shopping center in his Mercedes, but got out of his car and jumped into the air from 6 to 8 feet away to deliver a martial-arts-type kick to the photographer’s gut before punching him in the face.