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Johnny Depp Tonto Protest Yields Disney Peace Offering


Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto has drawn protests from Native Americans.

Johnny Depp’s controversial portrayal of Tonto in the upcoming Disney film “The Lone Ranger,” has prompted Disney to offer a peacepipe to Indian groups upset by the movie. Apparently nothing soothes the savage soul quite like money.

Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn said proceeds from ticket sales to the film’s world premiere will be donated to the
American Indian College Fund.

“The Lone Ranger” premiere will take place, June 22, at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif. The park has its own version of Hollywood Boulevard, no doubt without the junkies and homeless people that populate the real Hollywood Blvd.

Disney is promising the film’s stars, filmmakers and scads of Hollywood celebrities, in addition to the Lone Ranger’s horse Silver, will attend. An old-time train engine built for the film will also be displayed. Tickets are priced at $1,000.

“We’ve had a terrific collaboration with the Native American community throughout the production of Disney’s ‘The Lone Ranger,’” said Horn in a statement.

Well, not exactly.

Tonto is supposed to be a Comanche Indian, but Depp’s use of ghastly white facepaint and a dead crow headress is not even close to authentic Comanche dress during the Old West era, according to Rod Pocowatchit, a Comanche Indian writing in the Wichita Eagle newspaper.

“[It] seems to imply ridiculousness for the sake of comedy,” he writes.

For the record, Depp said he drew his inspiration from a contemporary Indian painting by Kirby Stattler. But the portrait is illustrative and does not represent a real person or tribe.

Ladonna Harris, a Comanche and president of Americans for Indian Opportunity, official adopted Depp into the tribe, a move that also drew some protests. Other Native Americans believe the role should have gone to a Native American actor.

Before Depp, the best known actor to play Tonto was Jay Silverheels, a Canadian Mohawk Indian. Silverheels, who died in 1980, played the character in the long-running television series in the early 1950s and two Lone Ranger movies.

The Jerry Bruckheimer film, directed by Oscar winner Gore Verbinski, re-imagines the original tale. Armie Hammer joins Depp as the masked man, but unlike previous incarnations, the tale is told mostly through Tonto’s eyes.

Tickets for the premiere event have been donated to the College Fund, which is selling them to the public through their website

Disney is underwriting the entire cost of the premiere, so 100 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to the fund. Time Warner Cable will stream the premiere live.

“The Lone Ranger” also stars Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson and Helena Bonham Carter. It opens in theaters July 3.

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  • jbdean

    We are NOT Indians. We do not come from India. We are Native Americans and this whole article is insulting. Peace pipes? Really? Disney needs to stop making movies. Their recent ones (i.e.: Wizard of Oz) are gorgeous visually but the rest is over chewed fodder. A waste of time and money, for both the studios and fans. I won’t be seeing this film. I am insulted that a Native American was not chosen. There weren’t even auditions to find out if there was a Native American that could have done the role. SAG is supposed to not allow this. It’s not the 1920s anymore where whites can play Chinese or black men with black face … Really insulting.

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  • enlighten_me_please

    You try to make a point with your story regarding the inaccurate portrayal of the character that Johnny Depp plays and at the same time show your total lack of cultural sensitivity with the opening paragraph of this story. How is it that you are so inept as to use terms like “savage soul” and “peacepipe”?. Did you really just reach into a bag of stereotypes and prove your total lack of intelligence and then, at the same time, try to call out Disney on theirs. Really? You totally missed the mark with this article.

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  • Scott Pewenofkit

    Also, notice that the writer of the article doesn’t use an actual name. Spouting racist comments must be easy when you’re allowed to shield yourself with the anonymity of the Internet.

  • Scott

    Journalism died a long time ago. The opening paragraph of this article is so stupid that words cannot adequately describe how ignorant the writer is. Just so the writer is aware: BLogging in no way is considered professional writing. The lack of professionalism in this blog post (not an actual article distributed by a real publisher, but an ignorant piece of writing more reflective of the idiocy often exhibited by anonymous posters on YouTube comments) would probably never make it pass the editor of a real newspaper or media outlet. Any child living in their mother’s basement who spends 18 hours per day on the Internet could easily do your job.

  • starcrossed

    Wow-zee…! Interesting reaction, but a bit strident don’t ya think. I mean I think the writer was trying to be sarcastic and play off Disney’s racism. But hey, that’s just how I read it…

    • jbdean

      The fact that the writer keeps referring to Native Americans as Indians shows their ignorance. Not strident at all. Actually, I’d say completely accurate.

  • JL

    Up yours with the savage soul comment. A complete race nearly wipped off the face of the earth and 100+ years later we’re still savages?

  • George_Price

    “Apparently nothing soothes the savage soul quite like money.” Who are the “savage souls?” You better not mean all Native Americans. That title, “savage soul,” and being soothed by money, is much more appropriate to the money grubbing, ruthless, amoral capitalist pigs who currently have the U.S. government (and therefore most of the world economies) in a stranglehold. I apply the title to individuals, and not to any entire so-called “race.”

  • N8V

    Soothes the “savage” soul and “peacepipe”??? What the ****!?!?!?!

  • waste of 30 secs of my life

    A proper example of the end of journalism…your parents must be proud

  • Miko chito

    To the Improper Staff
    Y’ all need to watch how you use your words and the stereotyping of
    people and comments about Native People The comments below can bring a lot of
    unwanted attention. {Johnny Depp’s controversial portrayal of Tonto in the
    upcoming Disney film “The Lone Ranger,” has prompted Disney to offer a peacepipe to Indian groups upset by the movie. Apparently nothing soothes the savage soul quite like money.}
    This is a straight up racists comment and you are stereotyping Native people.
    It is apparent that your writing skills are less than average and it is also
    very apparent you are showing your racists view point {Not good people}

    {Wisdom to think about} A wise man will take the time to think about and understand the words that come out of ones Mouth before he bring his words and wisdom to the people. In this case No thinking, No wisdom, and truly No understanding about the people your are talking about.

    Watch where you step for the ground you are walking on is full of obstacles.

    Go in peace my friend and in the future walk and speak with wise Words.

  • David Cornsilk

    They could not pay me to attend.

    • jbdean

      Me either, David. In the 50s it was bad enough but now, 21st C and with SAG rules about roles being played by an actor of that race/nationality … this whole film screams of nepotism. And nepotism doesn’t *have* to be blood related … there are Industry “family” that keep using the same actors over and over. I’m a fan of Depp’s, but this was a bad call of his by accepting the role. I read an article that quoted him as saying, “I was told I have Indian …” If he does, then his family comes from INDIA, not North America. Sad, all around. :(