Skip to content

Johnny Depp on his ideas behind Tonto from The Lone Ranger

The first image from Disney’s The Lone Ranger provided quite a shock for those expecting a close allegiance to the original TV series characters. Discussion about Johnny Depp’s unique take on the character of Tonto dominating the conversation. Entertainment Weekly interviewed Depp and learned that the bird-on-head look was inspired by “I Am Crow”, a painting by artist Kirby Sattler.

“[I] looked at the face of this warrior and thought: That’s it,” Depp said. “The stripes down the face and across the eyes … 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.”

The original artwork is a bit different than Depp’s take (you can see it here here). The bird is merely flying behind the subject’s head. Depp decided to use that as inspiration and make some alterations.

“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.”

There are other signs The Lone Ranger won’t be your typical western. Depp says his interpretation of Tonto will provide even more fodder for traditionalists.

“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,” he said.“…especially Tonto as the sidekick, The Lone Ranger’s assistant. As you’ll see, it’s most definitely not that.”

The question now is, will this Gore Verbinski led picture recapture the magic of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and bring in the box office bucks? The Lone Ranger also stars Armie Hammer, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson and Helena Bonham Carter. The movie will be released by Walt Disney Pictures on May 31, 2013.