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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