Johnny Depp Reveals the Inspiration for His 'Tonto' Makeup and Costume in Disney's Lone Ranger
04.23.12 by BrentJS
When Johnny Depp said that he had some "interesting plans" for Tonto, his character in Walt Disney's in-production Lone Ranger adaptation, the assumption was that he was mainly referring to elevating the Lone Ranger's (Armie Hammer) Native American sidekick to partner status. However, given his penchant for playing pasty-faced characters in his movies — Edward in Edward Scissorhands, Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow, Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the "Demon Barber" in Sweeney Todd, the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, and the vampire Barnabas Collins in the upcoming Dark Shadows — we should have guessed that his plans included painting Tonto in white makeup.
It's clear that Depp is into the "goth" look, but what was the real inspiration for painting Tonto's face and slapping a dead crow atop his head? According to Depp, it has nothing to do with the fact that he has been palling around with creepy rocker Marilyn Manson of late and everything to do with art. Specifically, the Native American artwork of Kirby Sattler.
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, an 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.
As for the dead crow atop Tonto's head, that came from Sattler's "I Am Crow" painting, as well, though Sattler's bird was more of a background element.
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
Lone Ranger is currently filming in New Mexico under the direction of Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean, Rango). The cast includes Tom Wilkinson, Helena Bonham Carter, Ruth Wilson, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, and William Fichter.