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Johnny Depp Reveals The Unexpected Inspiration For His ‘Lone Ranger’ Tonto

Johnny Depp Tonto
Walt Disney Pictures/Kirby Sattler

If you looked at Johnny Depp in full Tonto make-up from the set of Gore Verbinski’s ‘The Lone Ranger’ and assumed the visual inspiration was a cross between Edward Scissorhands and The Crow … well, you weren’t even close.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Depp reveals that he took the cues for his Tonto look from a painting by artist Kirby Sattler.

“[I] looked at the face of this warrior and thought: That’s it…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. … 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. That makeup inspired me.”

Sattler’s painting actually is titled ‘I Am Crow,’ and as you can see, it even triggered Depp to add the bird headdress to his Tonto costume. The ‘Crow’ reference calls out a native tribe of Midwestern Indians, though Tonto – in the film – is known to be a Comanche.

Sattler licensed his imagery to Disney for use in the film. He says that his paintings, which you can find right here, “are composites created from a variety of visual references coupled with my imagination. While being broadly based in a historical context, my paintings are not intended to be viewed as historically accurate. I used the combination of face paint and headdress as an artistic expression to symbolize the subject’s essence and his affinity to the Crow.”

So yeah, in case you were wondering, ‘The Lone Ranger’ isn’t aiming for historical accuracy. But if Depp has his way (and he likely will), ‘Ranger’ will correct how Tonto was viewed as a simple manservant.

“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. As you’ll see, it’s most definitely not that.”

We’ll see when Verbinski’s ‘The Lone Ranger’ comes out on May 13, 2013.

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