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When the first image was released from The Lone Ranger after the movie had barely begun production, I think I speak for all of us when I say there was one thing on our minds: why does Johnny Depp have a bird on his damn head? But that image was all we got, and even as the film carries on with its production, the mystery of Johnny Depp's completely insane costume has lingered and tortured us… until now.
Yes, in the (digital) pages of Entertainment Weekly Johnny Depp breaks his silence and explains the fairly artsy and thoughtful origin of his Tonto costume, which includes inspiration from a painting of a Native American warrior who, indeed, wears a bird on his head. Here's what Depp had to say:
“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.
Sattler actually licensed the look from his painting "I Am Crow" to the Lone Ranger production, and spoke to EW about the way he takes both historical truth and imagination to create the characters in his painting. Depp emphasized that too, saying his take on Tonto isn't based on any specific Native American tribe or any person who actually lived, but a blend of history and fantasy-- and a desire to reclaim the character known entirely as The Lone Ranger's sidekick:
“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.”
You can see Sattler's original painting side by side with Depp's photo at his website. It's no surprise to learn that Depp dug very deeply to find the inspiration for his character, and also that he had such control over his own makeup and hair-- how many other actors can claim that? With every tidbit we learn about The Lone Ranger it starts to seem a lot weirder than both the original TV serial and most live-action Disney movies, as if Jack Sparrow were given creative control over all of the Pirates movies. Will it actually be any good though? We'll have to wait until May 13 of next year to figure that part out.