Johnny Depp Reveals the Inspiration Behind His Tonto Character

Apr 25, 2012  •  Post A Comment

depp-hammer-tonto-ranger.jpgJohnny Depp as Tonto, Armie Hammer as the Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp’s look as Tonto in the upcoming “Lone Ranger” movie, revealed in a widely circulated promo shot (above), is a significant departure from the familiar character played by Jay Silverheels in the 1950s TV series. Now Depp has revealed where he got the look.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Depp said he got the idea from a painting of an Indian warrior.

“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,” Depp told the publication. “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.”

The story adds: “Depp explained that the lines of paint on the Native American’s face looked to him like a cross-section of the man’s emotional life. ‘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,’ he said. ’That makeup inspired me.’”

The hard-to-miss bird-on-the-head also comes from the painting, which is titled “I Am Crow.” Said Depp: “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.”

kirby-sattler-iamcrow.jpg‘I Am Crow,’ by Kirby Sattler


  1. johnny depp excellent for play a crazy pirate, however jay silverheels tonto seem very kind and sympathetic; not tortured or psycho warrior like johnny dep tonto. tonto is very important for a lone ranger movie cause he save a lone ranger life. movie not worth seeing if depp mess up tonto.

  2. Why don’t you wait to see the film before criticizing.

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