As Johnny Depp continues filming on The Lone Ranger the budget is increasing daily to preciptous levels that according to some reports border on $250 million. The film is definitely a gamble for Disney following Depp’s recent box-office under performers and the John Carter fiasco.
Meanwhile Depp immerses himself in the Indian culture of Tonto and no doubt looks to his own real-life ancestry for inspiration. His first tattoo dating back to the 1980s was of a Cherokee Chief in full headdress. It was a reminder of his ancestral heritage through Minnie, his Cherokee great-great grandmother. Depp took his heritage one step further recently after becoming an honorary member of the Comanche Nation and adopting the name of Mah Woo May which translates as shape-shifter. The private ceremony took place at the home of LaDonna Harris, president and founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity.
LaDonna Harris with Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp recently talked about the controversial Tonto make-up in Entertainment Weekly.
“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.”
Kirby Sattler licensed his work to be adapted in the upcoming film. Depp’s interpretation of the bird in Sattler’s painting definitely lends a Weird Western angle to Tonto.
“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.”
Interview copyright © 2012 Entertainment Weekly Inc. All rights reserved.
While Johnny Depp has admitted he based his Tonto make-up on Kirby Sattler’s painting and not on historical fact it may come as no surprise to some that birds were sometimes incorporated in real-life American Indian tribes. The Library of Congress archive of Curtis’ The North American Indian features this Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) photograph of ”Two Whistles” taken in 1908, showing a medicine of hawk attached to the head of a Mountain Crow Indian.
Born in 1856 of the Not Mixed clan “Two Whistles” fought battles against the Arapaho and Sioux. In 1887 after being shot in the arm and breast the arm was amputated above the elbow.
Source: The North American Indian (1907-1930) v.04, The Apsaroke, or Crows. The Hidatsa ([Seattle] : E.S. Curtis ; [Cambridge, Mass. : The University Press], 1909), plate no. 111
Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis’s ‘The North American Indian’: the Photographic Images, 2001.
Read more: Indian Country
Johhny Depp meets the Surgeon General of the Navajo Nation, Dr. Gayle Dine’ Chacon on location in Monument Valley on Aprl 12. She presented Depp with a traditional leather warrior pouch, decorated with an arrowhead to symbolise protection.
“He is a very charming man, very gracious and very concerned as well,” she said. “He probably spent a good hour with us. Everybody else left the set, but he was still there. … You feel that you are the only one there – that he’s just focusing on you.”
If you think Johnny Depp’s Tonto is over-the-top and is more suited to the next Pirates Of the Caribbean movie think again. Artist Kirby Sattler specializes in Native American art. Check out his painting against Depp’s Tonto. The designer Penny Rose may owe a debt to Sattler and his particulary vision of the Crow Indian. Or maybe they both accessed the same source material from their research. It certainly isn’t the Tonto we’ve all come to know from the Jay Silverheels version back in the 1950s.
You can view Kirby Sattler’s Native American portfolio at : Kirby Sattler
Disney’s The Lone Ranger is back in production following cuts to the original extravagent $275 million budget. The press release gives a hint of the revised storyline. It does appear that Tonto takes center stage and the “spirit warrior” reference hints at Weird Western elements remaining in the script.
“The Lone Ranger” is a thrilling adventure infused with action and humor, in which the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes. Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice—taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.”
Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski is reunited with Johnny Depp as Tonto and “Pirate” writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. Armie Hammer who plays The Lone Ranger is joined by William Fichtner (replacing Dwight Yoakam), Tom Wilkinson, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson and Helena Bonham Carter. Location and interior filming takes place in New Mexico followed by location shooting Arizona, Utah and Colorado. A release date is scheduled for May 31, 2013.
Image via Wikipedia
It appears the knock-on effect of the relatively weak performance of Cowboys & Aliens is resulting in a Hollywood withdrawal from the Weird West genre. The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer has been shelved by Disney due to a spiralling budget. It was to feature werewolves in a Weird West twist.
“It was going to be a Tonto show mainly… The driving engine was going to be Native American occult aspects worked in with werewolves and special effects. But flavored with doses of Native American spirituality in a serious way.
“But then Cowboys & Aliens came along and tanked and Disney got cold tenderfeet, spooked by the idea of a pricey mashup. If Cowboys & Aliens had made $200 million, this wouldn’t be happening. A Bruckheimer-style western in the wake of Cowboys & Aliens is nothing anyone is feeling secure about at this stage. Trust me, the writers of tentpole garbage are all scared now,” states a source on the Hollywood Elsewhere website.