When we finally got a chance to see how Johnny Depp would look as Tonto in the upcoming Gore Verbinski film “The Lone Ranger,” it was clear he had taken a definite departure from the incarnation that came before him. Though it seemed a bit over the top in the vein of Depp’s other flamboyant characters, he said in a recent interview that he was actually trying to make the character more authentic than Jay Silverheels’ version from the 1950s series.
“I’d actually seen a painting by an artist named Kirby Sattler, and looked at the face of this warrior and thought: That’s it,” Depp told Entertainment Weekly. “The stripes down the face and across the eyes… it seemed to me like you could almost see the separate sections of the individual, if you know what I mean. ”
When EW said no, they didn’t know what he meant, Depp went on to explain how he felt the lines separated the man’s emotional life.
“There’s this very wise quarter, a very tortured and hurt section, an angry and rageful section, and a very understanding and unique side. I saw these parts, almost like dissecting a brain, these slivers of the individual,” he said. “That makeup inspired me.”
If you look at the painting (linked above), you’ll see just how similar Depp’s Tonto and this man look. It turns out that Sattler’s portrait was also the inspiration for Tonto’s unique new headdress.
“It just so happened Sattler had painted a bird flying directly behind the warrior’s head. It looked to me like it was sitting on top,” Depp said. “I thought: Tonto’s got a bird on his head. It’s his spirit guide in a way. It’s dead to others, but it’s not dead to him. It’s very much alive.”
It’s nice to see that Depp has put so much thought into his “Lone Ranger” character. Armie Hammer previously told us that Depp is “a fantastic Tonto,” and Depp agreed that he has some “interesting plans” for the character. One of those is shifting Tonto from sidekick to leading man.
“The whole reason I wanted to play Tonto is to try to [mess] around with the stereotype of the American Indian that has been laid out through history, or the history of cinema at the very least — especially Tonto as the sidekick, The Lone Ranger’s assistant,” Depp said. “As you’ll see, it’s most definitely not that.”
“The Lone Ranger” is due out on May 13, 2013.
What do you think of Depp’s background information on Tonto? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter!