Home Entertainment Johnny Depp explains Tonto's new bird-brained look in The Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp explains Tonto's new bird-brained look in The Lone Ranger

3 min read

When the first few pics of Johnny Depp in his full Tonto makeup for Gore Verbinksi’s The Lone Ranger initially appeared online, many people were taken aback by the new crow-feathered look. Evidently, this was not the  not the Native-American they were looking for.

But as Depp explained to Entertainment Weekly, there was a very real world inspiration for the look and that Lone Ranger purists (please let that not really be a thing) should brace themselves, as Tonto’s headgear wasn’t the only thing he was changing about the masked lawman’s sidekick.

According to the actor, the character’s look was inspired by the painting “I AM CROW” by Kirby Sattler, which depicted real life Chipewayan legend, Crow Head. Oh did I say “inspired by”? I meant “very nearly copied verbatim”.

Here’s a side by side comparison:

Uncanny, hey? Here’s what Depp had to say about the look:

“[I] looked at the face of this warrior and thought: That’s itThe stripes down the face and across the eyes … 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.”

“I thought: Tonto’s got a bird on his headIt’s his spirit guide in a way. It’s dead to others, but it’s not dead to him. It’s very much alive.

Depp also went on to explain how his interpretation of the historically popular character would not quite be what long-time fans are used to:

“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... especially Tonto as the sidekick, The Lone Ranger’s assistant. As you’ll see, it’s most definitely not that.”

I have to admit, while having a fairly decent understanding of the character, I have never been the biggest Lone Ranger fan. Not only was it was simply a little bit before my time, but the character’s cheesy tales just never really appealed to me.  However, I’m hoping that with this contemporary reimagining, Depp and Verbinski (with some help from Hammer) can recapture the magic they had with the first Pirates film before the series got dragged down to Davy Jones’ locker by perennial wet-blanket Orlando Bloom’s wistful stares and Keira Knightley’s constant rich girl pout.


The Lone Ranger is a thrilling adventure infused with action and humor, in which the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes. Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) 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.

Last Updated: April 23, 2012

Check Also

Mads Mikkelsen: It would be “creative suicide” to copy Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 3

Expect something very different to what Johnny Depp brought to the role of Grindelwald whe…