Johnny Depp Says ‘Lone Ranger’ Will ‘Thank’ And ‘Respect’ Native Americans

MTV News chats with Depp, who reveals his inspiration behind Tonto.

After four installments of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, Johnny Depp reunites with director Gore Verbinski for a decidedly different sort of adventure — a western — in “The Lone Ranger.” Although the prospect of joining Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer was no doubt tantalizing, Depp revealed that he felt a personal motivation for playing the iconic role of Tonto.

“It was something I felt a pretty intense passion for, for a long time,” Depp told MTV News. “Just taking into consideration the way that Native Americans have been portrayed in old-school TV series as sidekicks or savages. I just thought it was a way to flip it completely on its head and an opportunity to send great respect and thanks to the Native Americans for all they’ve lived through and went through in their existence. I guess it was to portray the Native American with the integrity and dignity that they deserve.”

Depp famously brought so many unique elements to his portrayal of Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates” movies, which might lead one to believe he’s self-sufficient when it comes to performing onscreen. But Depp said he truly enjoyed the interplay he experienced with co-star Armie Hammer, who plays the Ranger himself.

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“When you’re in the ring and the camera’s rolling, you’re out there with your character and your partner, you never know what’s going to happen,” Depp observed. “Nothing’s ever really planned; you just go out there and do your stuff and see what happens — and Armie was very good about that. A lot of guys are extremely rigid in their delivery or their intent, but Armie can movie around a lot.”

Depp also said that his collaboration with Hammer led to some terrific chemistry between their characters, especially since Tonto was typically relegated to being the Lone Ranger’s sidekick. “That was very, very nice,” he said. “That would impact the character greatly because I think Tonto basically thought the Lone Ranger was an idiot.”

“The Lone Ranger” opens in theaters nationwide July 3.