Hot Poppin' Culture News From New York City

Johnny Depp Tonto Protest Yields Disney Peace Offering

johnnydepp-tonto

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.


Subscribe To TheImproper's Email Newsletters, Free!