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Lone Ranger Star Johnny Depp Explains Tonto’s New Look

When The Lone Ranger producer Jerry Bruckheimer released the first official look at stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in Disney’s big-budget Western, it wasn’t the nattily dressed Texas Ranger that started everyone talking. No, it was Depp as the painted Native America spirit warrior, a jolting departure from previous depictions of Tonto. So what, pray tell, inspired the new look?

“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 tells “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.”

The painting, titled “I Am Crow” (below), also inadvertently led to the creation of Tonto’s unusual 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,” the actor 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.”

Directed by Gore Verbinski, The Lone Ranger also stars Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson and Helena Bonham Carter. It opens May 31, 2013.


  • Jemurr

    Ok I’ll be the first one to say it. Why is Johnny Depp playing an Indian?

  • Vdm2177

    Depp is part Native American according to some of his interviews.

  • Glenn Simpson

    Because he knows enough not to call them “Indians”.

  • Lewis4510

    I know enough about native americans to say he looks stupid in that outfit. And his statement about that dead bird on his head reminds me of a Monty Python sketch where a guy is pissed that his parrot won’t talk. But doesn’t realize it won’t talk because it’s freaking dead.

  • pDUB

    The Lone Ranger: Parrot Sketch Not Included

  • mel

    I like the painting.

  • Sheldon Cooper


  • Reth Sogen

    I like the facepaint.  But I think the bird looks ridiculous.  I’ll still go see it, though.

  • Madamarcher

    he is quarter cherokee and creek,  what could be more natural than portraying part of your heritage??   And as usual, his look comes down to research and respect..already he is altering our perception from hollywood fantasy injuns, to the historical truth.  He is making his point well, aint he??   Go Johnny!!!

  • RunnerX13

    I’ve read an interview where Depp said his great grandmother grew up Cherokee, whatever that means.  Claiming to be part Native America is a pretty dumb argument, especially when he’s not playing a character of the same nation. m Just call it for what it is.a  white guy playing a character, there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Jemurr

    Agreed. BTW a lot of Native American people use the word Indian themselves.

  • Lastnamecumbie

    Well I am 25 percent Native American ( I am part of the black foot tribe) and yet Johnny Depp looks more Native American then me and he is one hell of an actor and brings something different to the character.