Johnny Depp Wants Tonto to Change Hollywood's Negative Portrayal of Native Americans

<em>Johnny Depp</em> Wants <em>Tonto</em> to Change Hollywood's Negative Portrayal of Native Americans

During an interview with MTV, the actor said that he expected the large budget for The Lone Ranger would be an obstacle.

Johnny Depp has claimed that he is part Native American. He said his great-grandmother who lived in Kentucky was either Cherokee or Creek Indian. His heritage has lead him on a mission to reboot the Tonto character, and upgrade him from sidekick to leading man in his version of The Lone Ranger. Just a few months ago he told Entertainment Weekly, “Why is the f–ing Lone Ranger telling Tonto what to do?”

The Lone Ranger started off as a radio show in 1933, but the version most people are familiar with is the 1950's television show. Tonto was played by Jay Silverheels, a Mohawk, and champion athlete in boxing, lacrosse, and wrestling. He was an actor with great dignity, and found a way to overcome the limitations of the role. Later in his life Jay devoted his life to teaching young Native American actors so that they could continue to progress the view of Hollywood toward a more authentic portrayal.

Jay's wife, Mary Silverheels had this to say about her husband playing Tonto, “Jay knew this was a character and changed what he could and didn’t dwell on what he couldn’t.” Her voice so soft I had to lean in to hear. “No, he didn’t like the dialogue, but he overcame that with his acting.” Indeed he did. That and more.

"I like the character. I think I have interesting plans for the character, and I think the film itself could be entertaining and very funny," he said. "But also I like the idea of having the opportunity to make fun of the idea of the Indian as a sidekick — which has always been [the case] throughout the history of Hollywood, the Native American has always been a second-class, third-class, fourth-class citizen, and I don't see Tonto that way at all. So it's an opportunity for me to salute Native Americans."

"We knew that the budget was going to be huge initially, and we also knew that it was going to be shut down for a while, and it was kind of like we patiently wait — we shave a little bit here, we do a little bit there, [and] they fix it."

How Hollywood stereotyped the Native Americans

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Anthrax - 10/12/2011, 9:18 PM
WHAT NEGATIVE PORTRAYAL Im native american pretty much from my mother side
Anthrax - 10/12/2011, 9:39 PM
wt [frick] i cant believe they are potrayed as such i agree 100 percent on that Natives are a proud and beautiful people, and hopefully Mr. Depp will finally bring that beauty to the silver screen.
SageMode - 10/12/2011, 10:03 PM
Isnt Deep part Native American himself?
DioFoRio - 10/12/2011, 10:21 PM
yeah depp's native american name is Chief PokinHotAss
Robert - 10/12/2011, 10:30 PM
Depp is right. Most Native Americans are portrayed as primitive people in Hollywood. I know he will do his best to change this.
WeaponX - 10/12/2011, 10:39 PM
If Depp wants to try and change the stereotype of Native Indians in Hollywood in much the same way Bruce Lee had tried to do with Asian stereotypes in Hollywood, then I say, go for it. It can only make the production better.
Ranger14 - 10/12/2011, 10:49 PM
Then cast an actual Native American to portray the part. To have a caucasian with a little Cherokee in him to play the part isn't going to do much to change the image. Not something many can take seriously.
DEATHbyEXILE - 10/12/2011, 10:56 PM
RidiculousFanBoyDemands - 10/12/2011, 11:12 PM

Did you know the guy from those commercials was actually Italian?

I understand Johnny Depp is part native American, but he comes off as pretentious here. I agree with RANGER14. If you want to do them justice hire a full blooded native American. This is like casting The Rock to play Martin Luther King or Malcom X.
RidiculousFanBoyDemands - 10/12/2011, 11:14 PM
I use that analogy from a purely racial standpoint, I am not comparing the two on acting abilities.
unclebuck99 - 10/12/2011, 11:41 PM
im part native american through my mom and always used to get shit for it growing up,but as soon as i called people a wop or jew they would take it to it's ok to just shit on native americans but can't say anything back ..fu ck that
ager - 10/13/2011, 12:42 AM
@Ranger said it best. how screwed up is it that a Hollywood big time WHITE actor with little Native American blood is cast as Tonto in order to change the image. Theres dozens of respectable Natives that can play the part.
KungFuKoala - 10/13/2011, 1:22 AM
Yeah Johnny, how better to salute native americans by having a white guy portray one!

AlexDeLarge87 - 10/13/2011, 2:22 AM
I really hope Depp does good job but i still would have liked to see Adam Beach in this role.
He fits better.

Oh and about this Idian matter.
Every human being is equal. No one is abow.
No matter what color or race or culture they are.
CapA - 10/13/2011, 2:28 AM
I don't think there's been negative portrayal of such community in movies since the late 60s...
Oarsis - 10/13/2011, 3:37 AM
Armie Hammer will be great...not to sure about depp....horrible casting choice. They better use a lot of makeup, and stuff.
VictorHugo - 10/13/2011, 4:19 AM
If they want people to forget the old west, then stop forcing the issue.
Ichaos - 10/13/2011, 4:28 AM
1) Mr Depp is about 30 to 40 years behind the times. I think Dances with Wolves set the realistic portrayal standard.

2) In a lot of older movies they had white people playing Indians and Chinese for some reason. Though Depp may have some native american in him it sure doesn't look like there is much or at least it doesnt show so it will come off as looking like a whiteman playing an "Indian"

3) Tonto as a "leading man". Usually there is just one and if Tonto is THE leading man then I fear it will all come off like then Green Hornet did.

4) Custard was an ayehole and had it coming
Ichaos - 10/13/2011, 4:37 AM
A real native american should play tonto
A real pudgy white guy should play Perry White
Nick Fury should be a white guy with an eye patch because the Ultimate universe doesn't matter (though Samuel is awsome in everything he does)
Luke Cage should be played by a black guy (sorry black guy american)
And Guinevere should be a hot white check with a face to launch a thousand ships (As opposed to the choice in the Merlin TV show)

Ichaos - 10/13/2011, 4:38 AM
white check=white chick or to be PC again white chick american ;)
marvel72 - 10/13/2011, 4:41 AM
i agree,i'm sure there is a full blooded native american that could play tonto.

no to depp.
chuckg313 - 10/13/2011, 5:40 AM
kinda reminds me of Tom Cruise playing the last Samurai
chuckg313 - 10/13/2011, 5:41 AM
and Tarzan being the king of the jungle
CrowPirate1 - 10/13/2011, 5:45 AM
um.. you should watch Outlaw Josey Wales. Clint Eastwood did that for Native Americans already. Oh.. has anyone ever seen Dances with Wolves? Kevin Costner did that to?

In fact.. let's call the movie Tonto.. the story of the Lone Ranger's sidekick. Tonto played by a real Native American, Depp playing the Ranger.

now THAT would be different!!
paptschik - 10/13/2011, 6:19 AM
Why wouldn't the native american take orders from the Lone Ranger? I mean...he could just take orders from him out of respect and because Lone Ranger is the actual leading man?
It's not like anyone has a problem when natives, black people, asians, hispanics or blue elves take orders from the very white Cyclops in X-Men. Tonto is a heroic character, partner to another hero. That alone IS a positive portrayal of natives, no matter who is the main lead.

Besides, it's not like Tonto should just go "yes master". It's not like Tonto can't say "no" if a stupid decision is made. It's not about following orders, it's about partners working together, one being the main character and the other being his, well, partner.
djohnpi - 10/13/2011, 6:20 AM
I thought it was just me why not get a Native American to play a Native American just a thought. JUST ME !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
comicb00kguy - 10/13/2011, 6:34 AM
An excellent way to START correcting any negative portrayals of Native Americans in films would be to cast a full-blooded one as Tonto in this major Hollywood production. There are enough full-blooded Native Americans alive today. I'm certain that at least one of them has acting talent that could earn the respect of moviegoers everywhere. Why can't Depp play the Lone Ranger, and play him as a guy who's a lot more respectful of his close friend and partner, Tonto? I'd have zero objection to that. Depp can claim to be part Native American all he wants to, but his stealing an important part in a Hollywood blockbuster film shows that he's a lot more concerned with feeding his insatiable ego and his bloated bank account than in wanting to truly help elevate the presence of Native Americans in Hollywood and to truly help raise their perceptions in the world at large.
MassExecutions - 10/13/2011, 6:38 AM

As if native American's have had no positive portrayals on film. He has to do the whole job of rehabilitating their image himself. As if no actual Native American's have been helping with that.

Also, Tonto already took this role as more of a partner in the comics. The film isn't the first portrayal to do it.

marvel72 - 10/13/2011, 6:44 AM
@ comicb00kguy

i agree 100%
EphPhaThaINC - 10/13/2011, 6:52 AM
I am a lover of both movies and also I remember watching reruns of the Lone Ranger as a small child so Hollywood making this movie is very important to me and regardless of how big the budget this movie gets it is making sure that they get this movie completely right. Period pieces in hollywood are always gonns be expensive to do but a 250 million dollar budget sound really fishy to say the least.

Now I can understand Johnny Depp wanting to play Tonto and all, he is a big marketable named actor. It is smart from a business prospective. I get that. I really do.

But for Depp to push so heavy as to have Tonto as a leading man and upstage the man that this franchise is named after is B.S. Totally redonkulous to say the least.

Now one thing that I would accept and love and they could just as easily pull off is having Lone Ranger and Tonto as partners and friends. Show their bond and the strength of it as being that they are both symbiotic and intertwined. They are equals and at the same time it makes a statement of cultural diversity. Two strong figures making a stand together to accomplish their goals. None of this "he's the hero and he's the side" sort of thing. Depp has some ego as to try and hog all of the spotlight from such an iconic character as the lone ranger. We get it, people like Gore Verbinski and Tim Burtan have J-Depp man love and love putting him in all of their movies. But don't screw up a iconic character because you want more money and screentime.

The relationship needs to be like Vin Diesel's Shawn Vetter and Lerenz Tate's Dre in Man Apart. They both depend on and rely on one another. Nor one person is better than the other.

They should be partners, pals, friends, brothers...symbiotic and united.
EpicMan - 10/13/2011, 6:54 AM
Wait a minute.... So native americans were not like that in the 1800s? they didnt Ride horses? use Bo and arows? live off of the land?

Apaches diddnt attack white settlers?

He is trying to change the view of the Indian back then or now?

Im so confused.....

EpicMan - 10/13/2011, 7:00 AM
And whats wrong with a "white man" playing a native american?

If we can have Idris play a Norse god? A NORSE! NORSE! god.

And we can have Cowboy Curtis play Perry White. Who has been depicted as a White character in every encarnation of superman!!!!

Dont be racist
EpicMan - 10/13/2011, 7:19 AM
@MrEko you forgot Idris Elba in your list
EpicMan - 10/13/2011, 7:42 AM
Wait Wait Wait.... Where, anywhere in this article, or statements by the actor is the mention "we are trying to change the view of early European settlers from something they were to something they werent?"

Further more RACISM on any level should not be tolerated and unfortunately reverse reacism is a growing trend in todays society and is very prevailent on CBM.

You begin your argument with condemnation of White actors Portraying roles that arent racialy synonymous as their own race. But its okay for white roles to be taken by black actors.....

Why? because it has not happened that much? Ohh yeah, good argument there.

you sir are a racist and a hypocrite.

KNIGHT3000 - 10/13/2011, 7:55 AM
Johnny is right, why should Tonto be the Sidekick? ITS HIS LAND!

My Native American name is Chief Ganja-Blazer
AlexDeLarge87 - 10/13/2011, 8:13 AM
Where the hell people get the idea that he has a big ego?

He just basically said that he wants to make Tonto´s character more than just a sidekick and give justice to native americans. Whats wrong in that?
AlexDeLarge87 - 10/13/2011, 8:14 AM
tea@ I always thought it was teabag ;)
HelaGood - 10/13/2011, 8:28 AM
so instead of Depp changing the stereotype, why not we get a full-blooded native american actor instead????
Bartman87 - 10/13/2011, 8:37 AM
I read that he want's to be the real star of the movie. Why can't the writers just look to the new comic series to see the path that has been taken and keep it simple? Westerns do well at the box office if kept simple, no ludicrous plots just either a revenge story or justice story, keep it a simple western. No werewolves, aliens or weird shi7.
siggisuperman - 10/13/2011, 9:01 AM

I think avatar the last airbender is not supposed to happen in japan, just because it's an anime it doesnt have to have japanese actors, I always just looked at it like the fire kingdom was the only one that had asians.

That being said the movie was awful and did not portray the tv show well...

But I think most of the world sees indians as a strong proud people
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