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Gore Verbinski is hard at work on a big screen version of The Lone Ranger, and that’s not going to be easy. It’s Tonto that’s the problem; handle it the wrong way, and the Native American sidekick character could easily come off as a racist caricature. It doesn’t help that Tonto’s being played by Johnny Depp who, though he may have some Native American ancestry somewhere (what Heinz 57 American doesn’t?), isn’t really Native American. Verbinski’s solution? He’s not really making The Lone Ranger.
For those of you wondering why anyone would cast a star like Johnny Depp to play a faithful sidekick instead of the movie’s lead, the answer is they haven’t. Though the movie’s titled “The Lone Ranger” Verbinski tells the LA Times that it’s all about Tonto, and the entire thing will be told from his point of view. What’s more, it’s not so much the classic Lone Ranger story he’s telling, actually, he’s sort of turning the whole thing into Don Quixote. He explains, “The only version of ‘The Lone Ranger’ I’m interested in doing is ‘Don Quixote’ told from Sancho Panza’s point of view.”
That’s been the plan all along apparently. Verbinski says, “I was honest early on with Johnny that Tonto is the part. We’re not going to do it [straight], everyone knows that story. I don’t want to tell that story.” Cervantes is the real influence for the story he’s telling, not the 1933 radio adventures or subsequent TV series we all think of when we think Lone Ranger.
What’s more, it sounds like they’re going to really use Johnny Depp’s talent for playing somewhat unbalanced characters to the fullest. Gore says, “I want the version from the untrustworthy narrator who might be a little crazy — but somehow the question is, is he crazy or is the world crazy?” Why do I suddenly have a wild west version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in my head? There’s no way that can happen, this is a Disney movie after all. We should probably expect something more along the lines of Captain Jack Sparrow crazy instead. Either version seems like a good move.