Johnny Depp Explains Why He Didn't Want Tonto To Be The "Sidekick" In THE LONE RANGER

Johnny Depp Explains Why He Didn't Want Tonto To Be The "Sidekick" In THE LONE RANGER

Fans probably assumed that Tonto's prevalence in the trailers for The Lone Ranger was all down to Depp being the bigger draw, and while that might be the case, the actor has a very specific reason why he didn't want his character to play second fiddle to Armie Hammer's titular lawman..

Most of us wondered why Disney didn't just call their movie "Tonto And The Lone Ranger" and be done with it, given that Johnny Depp's Native American warrior -- usually portrayed as the Ranger's trusted sidekick -- is clearly the focus of most of the promotion for the film. But it seems Depp had a very good reason for not wanting Tonto to be cast in that role this time around, and it wasn't just so he could get top billing on the posters!...probably. “Since cinema has been around, Native Americans have been treated very poorly by Hollywood," Depp explains to Total Film. "What I wanted to do was play Tonto not as a sidekick – like ‘go fetch a soda for me, boy!’ – but as a warrior with integrity and dignity. It’s my small sliver of a contribution to try to right the wrongs of the past.” He's right of course, but what about another common fan gripe -- shouldn't an ACTUAL Native American have played the role in the first place? “I’m probably one sixteenth Native American, but of course that’s hard to trace. Basically that means it’s likely that, somewhere along the line, you were a product of rape.”

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Mark Cassidy
Member Since 11/9/2008
Filed Under "Other" 6/7/2013 Source: Total Film
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Jollem - 6/7/2013, 4:26 AM
ManofSteel23 - 6/7/2013, 4:29 AM
Bullshit,hes the bigger draw and thats it
Luminus - 6/7/2013, 4:36 AM
+1 superman2013.
NYCGEEK - 6/7/2013, 4:45 AM
HE didn't want to be a sidekick & wasn't thinking about the Native Americans. Come on, Johnny.
SuperDan89 - 6/7/2013, 4:50 AM
Yeah Johnny, for the Native Americans, not the star billing & tons of money....oh wait
pepe - 6/7/2013, 4:50 AM
Depp, is crap... True story
Jollem - 6/7/2013, 4:52 AM
jack sparrow > tony stark
ParisSun - 6/7/2013, 4:52 AM
I'm not going to speak on Depp's hypothetical arrogance or intentions. I don't know that guy so I will not speak on it.

As far as the issue of Tonto as a sidekick, my first reaction is to stay true to the source. But after thinking back on the old westerns I definitely understand what Depp is talking about.

The way Native Americans were treated in Hollywood films and tv was terrible. It would be like a white man dressing in black face to play Luke Cage today. It was embarrasing to see white women with red paint on their faces in order to play a love interest of the civilized white man.

So I can definitely see where some things need to be left in the past.
RorMachine - 6/7/2013, 4:53 AM
He really isn;t..he just seems to want to make a lot of crap movies lately. The man can act, you only have to see most of his earlier films to recognize that fact.
Jollem - 6/7/2013, 4:53 AM
cynical, hateful [frick]s. damn O.o
BackwardGalaxy - 6/7/2013, 4:53 AM
Folks, he didn't have to take the role at all. Not like he's hard up and he could have taken any role he wanted and still got paid. Could've been the Ranger or the villain. Heck, his name attached is probably the reason this movie got made at all. He probably could've gotten any movie made he wanted. I'm sure he picked Tonto for the reasons stated. The paycheck was always guaranteed.
SaxoWolf - 6/7/2013, 5:03 AM
Super12 - 6/7/2013, 5:27 AM
It's not like what you're saying isn't true, we just don't believe it coming from the highest paid actor on the planet.
Ramiel - 6/7/2013, 5:32 AM
He was probably drunk on rum during this interview. Ain't that right, Captain Jack Sparrow?
Jollem - 6/7/2013, 5:34 AM
you cynical lot are throwing stones, but if you did any reading or knew what was what, you would realize you are saying stupid things
wcwpoet - 6/7/2013, 5:46 AM
Look I like Depp a lot but it's laughable to me to have a clearly white man playing a Native American. I'm reminded of the Paul Mooney joke during a sketch of Chapelle's Show when he rants about Hollywood going to far with Tom Cruise's Last Samurai. "You've got Brad Pitt in The Mexican now Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. I'm going to make a film The Last N***a Alive starring Tom Hanks." LOL now you've got Depp as Tonto somewhere Paul Mooney is howling.
ManDeth - 6/7/2013, 5:50 AM
Lots of hate brewing for Depp here. And it looks like its because he makes the big bucks.
The only way a person should hate on an actor for getting a big piece of the pie is if they are fans of execs and studio heads and are pissed that a mere actor would dare take money out of the hands of the execs and the studio.
Its the actor that has to work with trainers and manage their bodies 24/7 and fly all over the World promoting the stuff. And its the actors people pay to see.
So when I hear Depp, Downey and the Avengers cast make the studios pay them well Im glad to hear it.
If Downey JR didnt get his cut from Marvel/Disney, that money wouldve gone to the fat guys running the studio and their freeloading grown children and grandchildren. Is that what people want?
Depps a damn good actor. His films will entertain hundreds of millions of people for many decades after hes dead. While not one person will be entertained by the fatguys that sit in the studio offices.
ManDeth - 6/7/2013, 5:57 AM
@wcwpoet This film isnt being made because people were demanding to see the Lone Ranger. This film was produced to star Depp. Just like Holmes starring Downey JR.
Its not like Depp stole a role from an Indian guy. The role was custom made for him.
Without those 2 guys attached to these films they likely wouldnt have been made. Especially Lone Ranger.
Axelbratoski - 6/7/2013, 6:07 AM
“Since cinema has been around, Native Americans have been treated very poorly by Hollywood"
Well, he is playing a Native American whose name means "silly" in Spanish.
Jaspion - 6/7/2013, 6:22 AM
In portuguese "Tonto" means dumb.
bs77 - 6/7/2013, 6:40 AM
Depp is obviously the bigger draw, and this movie appears to be in the vein of the Green Hornet, where the "sidekick" is better written and more interesting than the main character. I grew up watching the Lone Ranger and had the action figures and kid's costumes. I'm disappointed that they finally make this movie and it's the Tonto Show. Josey Wales had a real Native American actor playing a "sidekick" and he was hilarious and evolved to be more than just the typical "movie indian". I don't know why a white dude is using a Native American "sidekick" character to push some agenda for Native Americans in a movie about a white dude called The Lone Ranger. It's ridiculous. Besides Johnny, you're Tonto just sounds like Captain Jack with more broken English.

Maybe Depp just picks these movies so he can keep Helena Bonham-Carter employed... she's hideous
wcwpoet - 6/7/2013, 7:04 AM
@Mandeth I'm not bashing the movie just the hilarity of Depp trying to justify why he's Tonto. I like Gore Verbinkski & Depp and them doing a Western has me interested. But it doesn't change the ridiculousness of Depp's character. You're right to if Depp wasn't involved this wouldn't even be made, but if he wanted Native Americans treated better by Hollywood he should've been the Lone Ranger and pushed for an actual Native American to be Tonto.
M3T4LL0 - 6/7/2013, 7:07 AM
KeefNCookies - 6/7/2013, 7:09 AM
There was an article about this (not on CBM) a LONG time ago that had Depp visit a tribe and become accepted as one of them, as well as talk about this very same issue about the portrayal of Native Americans with the tribe itself. He has spent time and gotten the blessing from the people, and regardless of the very likely possibility that his ego wont let him be a minor role, he does genuinely care about Natives. I find it extremely distasteful in those that are so quick and easy to assume without education on the matter.

I will say this though... Depp is too eccentric to actually be a good representation of anything except insanity at its finest so I do agree with him not doing this to begin with, but still dont believe there is anything but good intentions.
Thegeekygurl - 6/7/2013, 7:32 AM
@KeefNCookies The only reason I might watch this is because Depps in it. And hes an accomplished box office draw.
I wouldnt call it ego that hes the main star/character but I would call it a smart move. No way a guy who can carry films should be second to Armie Hammer. If youre Depp why would you show up to work as second to a nobody? You wouldnt. You show up for a role that interests you in some way and the studio puts the big draw 1st instead of putting someone like Hammer 1st. Hammer cant carry a summer film right now. Most people have never heard of him.
Depp is the main attraction and should be treated like it. Hammer is trying to build himself up to being the draw.
Too often we've seen guys get roles because they look like Superman or some other character and they get treated like theyre the big guy. Brandon Routh as Superman and Reynolds as GL come to mind.
When those guys get lifted into that position too soon it doesnt work out. Its not all about name recognition but also about learning how to be an entertainer/actor and learning what works best for you as an actor.
Hammer's lucky hes not getting thrust in as the lead when hes just not ready.
Scorpion8125 - 6/7/2013, 7:46 AM
Depp is so full of sh!t, that even he may not realize his ego is out of control.

He is in the Lone Ranger, something that is set in the old West. It should have an accurate portrayal that represents the TV show this all came from.

I predict massive faceplant flop.

ManDeth - 6/7/2013, 7:49 AM
@wcwpoet Depp really doesnt need to justify it. He and Downey bring something to the screen that no one else does right now. No other white, black, Asian, Hispanic or Indian are doing what these two have been doing the past several years.

Remember Robert Downey Jr blew people away as a black guy in Tropic Thunder. Yeah he was supposed to be white but for 98% of the film he was black.

There simply are no American Indian actors who are major box office draws that a studio would bank on in that role right now.

Depp's character may change perceptions about American Indians and possibly open things up for them when people realize they dont have to be the sidekick to white guys and an Indian character can be the Big Dog. I think thats what Depp is saying.

But if this film had an unknown actor playing Tonto then the part is scaled back. No unknown actor would get the screen time hes getting. Without a major American Indian star in that role the film goes back to being a typical Lone Ranger film. And right now that star just doesnt exist.

Ramiel - 6/7/2013, 7:50 AM

I see that you are not a fan of whitewashing. Are you a fan of the blackwashing that is currently happening?
Tainted87 - 6/7/2013, 8:04 AM
Errrrrrrr why not cast a Native Amerian in the role then? Why would he even need to be a big name? Who had heard of Chris Hemsworth before Thor, huh?
stevebrt - 6/7/2013, 8:09 AM
I'm hoping that his Tonto is really just a white guy who had a mental breakdown
queenofdisaster - 6/7/2013, 8:11 AM
It just gets worse and worse. His comments about Native Americans in Hollywood are proof of his total lack of self-awareness, and OMG he is going to catch hell for that rape comment. What happened to this guy, I used to worship him as a kid!

Let's be real Johnny, you wanted to play this role for the money, the fact that you're a bit of a pretentious hipster and that this role is just another Jack Sparrow knock off which doesn't require much of a stretch for you acting wise. Laziness all round.
WeaponMental - 6/7/2013, 8:29 AM
Same time I'm sure if Depp just wanted top billing and that's it, I can see him play the love ranger in the first place. I think he preferred to play Tonto. This is Depp... If he has as much input as is obvious, then he could've just played the ranger role. He chose Tonto. It's not all about first billing for him.
thejon93rd - 6/7/2013, 8:48 AM
So much bull. Depp just wanted more money, that's the only reason he's been first billed on the casting credits. I seriously hope that this movie flops hard because I'm seriously tired of seeing Depp in blockbusters (especially since they tend to keep getting worse and worse with the likes of Alice in Wonderland and the latest Pirates film).
BadJoke - 6/7/2013, 8:51 AM
Oh for god sake, that's a terrible excuse, he's doing it for his damn ego, also the writers and producers of the movie have a big influence about the participation of Depp in the film. However I don't expect nothing about this movie, it just looks like pirates of the caribean in the west (which is kind of logic, but not original)
robsncoppers - 6/7/2013, 8:52 AM
BULL. Good call queenofdisaster, he is a pretentious hipster. Being "probably" one sixteenth native American in order isn't enough for me to buy the claim that his top billing is some grand stand for Native American's everywhere when it is obvious that the studio just wants to use his name and not his race. There are actors who are DEFINITELY one sixteenth native American or more that the studio could have chosen. I'm trying not to discount his sense of racial identity, but he shouldn't pretend like he's fighting so hard for the cause of the native American actors.
mrteaspoon - 6/7/2013, 8:55 AM
Johnny Depp Explains Why He Didn't Want Tonto To Be The "Sidekick" In THE LONE RANGER

Because he's Johnny Depp, and can't play anything other than 'LOOK AT MY INTERESTING QUIRKS'. No way could the dude handle 'reserved second tier character'.
robsncoppers - 6/7/2013, 8:58 AM
Besides, he's done this before without race being involved at all. Remember Johnny Depp in Wonderland? I saw this poster all over the place. Not so much Alice. Not so much billing of the actress who played Alice.

And I know I'm not the only one who noticed that giant superfluous Pirates of The Caribbean logo in the middle of the Lone Ranger trailer.
comicb00kguy - 6/7/2013, 10:17 AM
Depp is one of the most arrogant and overrated pieces of sh*t infesting Hollywood today. He doesn't care two cents about the plight of the Native Americans. If he did, he would have helped find a full-blooded one to play Tonto. That alone would have done more for that community and for righting some of the many wrongs done against them by Hollywood, and would have been a move that I would have respected. He could still get top billing by playing the Lone Ranger instead, which would satisfy his massive ego. Had he followed up this move by using his pull to make sure this Tonto was treated as an equal to the Lone Ranger, we might have seen something REAlLY positive here. But no. This whole thing is just another ego trip, his chance to ruin another classic character. I'm surprised he hasn't pushed to take over the new Star Wars film since Disney runs that now, and give him the chance to ruin one of the biggest franchises of all.
supermarioworldE - 6/7/2013, 10:45 AM
It's good that Depp wants to expand the character as more than a sidekick (an outdated stereotype of minorities), but frankly he isn't the best representation of the native american people. If he never mentioned it you'd never guess he wasn't white.
Colorist - 6/7/2013, 11:09 AM
Gee, that's funny. I ALWAYS THOUGHT OF HIM AS A WARRIOR OF DIGNITY AND INTEGRITY! And if you got your self-righteous head out of your own butt, Johnny, you just might find that a lot of people felt the same way!
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