Johnny Depp, who has signed on to play Tonto in a film version of The Lone Ranger (to be directed by Gore Verbinski, his Pirates of the Caribbean director), told Anthony Breznican of Entertainment Weekly that he’d like to “reinvent” the relationship between the Lone Ranger and his Indian sidekick, perhaps even “turn it on its head.” In fact, there could be a significant role reversal. “I remember watching [the television show] as a kid, with Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore, and going: ‘Why is the f—ing Lone Ranger telling Tonto what to do?’” Depp said. “I liked Tonto, even at that tender age, and knew Tonto was getting the unpleasant end of the stick here. That’s stuck with me.”
Depp’s comments echo some made by Verbinski in February. “The only version of The Lone Ranger I’m interested in doing is Don Quixote told from Sancho Panza’s point of view,” he said, as reported by the L.A. Times. “And hence I was honest early on with Johnny that Tonto is the part. We’re not going to do it [straight], everyone knows that story. I don’t want to tell that story.” Verbinski went on to say “I want the version from the untrustworthy narrator who might be a little crazy—but somehow the question is, is he crazy or is the world crazy? That, I find fascinating.”
A Huffington Post report on the story speculated that filling the nominally lead role of the Lone Ranger—as yet uncast—might become even more difficult if mega-star Depp is mandating a dominant Tonto. Earlier reports cited Ryan Gosling as a candidate, but more recently the focus has turned to Armie Hammer of The Social Network.
In the Entertainment Weekly article, Depp also brought up his belief that he has Native blood, which he has mentioned in the past. “My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American,” he said. “She grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek.” For Depp, his heritage gives the Tonto role an added personal dimension. “If you find out you’ve got Native American blood, which a lot of people do,” he told Entertainment Weekly, “you think about where it comes from and go back and read the great books, Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee or [John Ehle’s] Trail of Tears, you have to think, somewhere along the line, I’m the product of some horrific rape. You just have that little sliver in your chemical makeup.”