When The Lone Ranger producer Jerry Bruckheimer released the first official look at stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer in Disney’s big-budget Western, it wasn’t the nattily dressed Texas Ranger that started everyone talking. No, it was Depp as the painted Native America spirit warrior, a jolting departure from previous depictions of Tonto. So what, pray tell, inspired the new look?
“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,” Depp tells EW.com. “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.”
The painting, titled “I Am Crow” (below), also inadvertently led to the creation of Tonto’s unusual headdress.
“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,” the actor said. “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.”
Directed by Gore Verbinski, The Lone Ranger also stars Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson and Helena Bonham Carter. It opens May 31, 2013.