Depp's Tonto Equal Partner, Not Sidekick, of “THE LONE RANGER”


Three-time Best Actor Oscar-nominee Johnny Depp stars as Native American warrior Tonto in Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer Films’ epic, action adventure “The Lone Ranger.”

The film recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice—taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.

Depp’s interest in playing Tonto in “The Lone Ranger” developed early on when it was just germinating as an idea with producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Depp, in typical fashion, figured that the best way to get the ball rolling would be to get into character as Tonto. He enlisted the help of two close friends—makeup artist Joel Harlow and photographer Peter Mountain—and set about creating his distinctive version of how Tonto would look in the hope that it would convince Bruckheimer and the studio, Disney, to give it the green light.

Depp is, of course, a master of disguise and a brilliant character actor as well as one of Hollywood’s best-loved leading men. He based his ‘look’ for Tonto on a painting he’d seen of a Native American warrior and added his own, unique, flourishes.

The result was spectacular and it convinced Bruckheimer—and indeed Disney Studios— that it was time for “The Lone Ranger” and Tonto to ride back onto the screen. As Bruckheimer relates, “Johnny Depp creates amazing characters, no matter what movie he’s in. His Tonto will be different than any Tonto you’ve ever seen before. He has a whole different look, a whole different feel. We don’t even know until the cameras roll what he’s going to do, but we know it’s going to be entertaining and very interesting.”

Depp had definite thoughts how he wanted the character of Tonto to be portrayed. He remembers watching repeats of the TV show when he was a boy and promises that his Tonto will be an equal partner—and certainly not a sidekick—to the Lone Ranger and honor the noble, warrior tradition of his Native American heritage.

“‘The Lone Ranger’ was just one of those sort of regular things that you would see on television as a kid. I watched it and I always identified with Tonto,” he says. “And even as a kid I wondered why the Indian was the sidekick.

“And it wasn’t that ‘The Lone Ranger’ was overtly disrespectful in the way he treated Tonto but I just thought, ‘why is he the guy that has to go and do this and that? Why isn’t he the hero?’ So that was something that was always on my mind. And I was told at a very young age that we have some Indian blood in our family…who knows how much—maybe very little, I don’t know.

“So what I wanted to do was play this character not as the sidekick to the Lone Ranger. I wanted to play him as a warrior and as a man with great integrity and dignity. It’s my small sliver of a contribution to try and right the wrongs that have been committed in the past.”

Opening across the Philippines on July 17, “The Lone Ranger” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.

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