Johnny Depp Reveals the Inspiration Behind His LONE RANGER Makeup

     April 23, 2012


When it was confirmed that Johnny Depp would be starring as Tonto in director Gore Verbinski’s big screen iteration of The Lone Ranger, it was pretty much a given that the makeup-happy Depp would come up with a quirky design for the Native American sidekick.  We finally got our first look at Depp in full makeup a few months ago (with some more photos dropping over the past few weeks) and, expectedly, it’s a little out there.  Not only is his face completely covered in paint, but his headdress features a very prominent dead animal at its apex.

Depp recently took the time to explain the inspiration behind his Tonto design, talking about how he settled upon the look we got a glimpse of back in March.  Hit the jump to see what he had to say.  And yes—he talks about the bird.

kirby-sattler-paintingSpeaking with EW, Depp revealed that his inspiration for Tonto came from a painting:

“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.”

Fair enough. But what about that bird, Mr. 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.”

the-lone-ranger-johnny-deppA spirit guide bird; well sure.  But does the makeup have any historical basis or is this just Depp being his artistic, imaginative self?  Sattler says his paintings are a mixed bag:

“The portraits I paint are composites created from a variety of visual references coupled with my imagination. While being broadly based in a historical context, my paintings are not intended to be viewed as historically accurate. I used the combination of face paint and headdress as an artistic expression to symbolize the subject’s essence and his affinity to the Crow.”

So while decidedly different and visually appealing, we shouldn’t put much factual stake in Depp’s Lone Ranger look.  Nevertheless, I’m intrigued to actually see this Tonto in action.  It’s one thing to see how the character looks, but Depp has no doubt tailored an entire speech pattern and physical gait specifically for his iteration of Tonto.  Hopefully we get a trailer sometime this summer, as the film is slated to open on May 31st, 2013.


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