When the first image of Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp as his sidekick Tonto appeared online, the reaction was not kind. At least not towards Depp’s look, as it was perceived as yet another gimmick by the actor, known for his sense of quirk. This time however, a number of people felt that the painted face and the dead bird on his head was a mockery of Native American dressing and culture. The backlash has prompted Depp to speak out on it publicly.
Today, Entertainment Weekly managed to get official word from the man himself. Depp explained: “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. 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, and 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.”
The actor continued, elaborating on the presence of the crow: “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. 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.”
EW contacted the artist, Kirby Sattler (whose painting we’ve shown above), and he admitted that he took some creative liberties. According to him, the make-up and the bird in the painting are merely symbolism for his fondness of the Crow Indians. Sattler said: “The portraits I paint 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.”
“The Lone Ranger” also stars Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper and Timothy Hutton. The remake of the classic Western is directed by Gore Verbinski and premieres 31st May 2013.