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Johnny Depp explains the origin of his make-up design for The Lone Ranger

04.23.2012

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When the first picture of Johnny Depp as Tonto in THE LONE RANGER appeared, it definitely caused a bit of a stir. Conforming neither to the traditional style of the Comanche people (technically Tonto's tribe) nor the traditional depiction of Tonto himself, I definitely dug the look of the character despite how hard it was not to think "so how is a face full of white make-up relevant in this particular case?" 

Well Depp has an answer, and an encouraging one at that.  “I’d actually seen a painting by an artist named Kirby Sattler (called I Am Crow - see it below), 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,” he said.”That makeup inspired me.”

Johnny Deppy and Armie Hammer in The Lone Ranger

As for the bird on the head bit? “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.”

Meanwhile, artist Kirby Sattler had this to say about his process: “The portraits I paint are composites created from a variety of visual references coupled with my imagination,” he says. “While being broadly based in a historical context, my paintings are not intended to be viewed as historically accurate. I used the combination of face paint and  headdress as an artistic expression to symbolize the subject’s essence and his affinity to the Crow.”

So there you have it.  If you're interested in any of the other work by Kirby Sattler, his website can be found right here.  THE LONE RANGER opens on May 31st, 2013.

I Am Crow by Kirby Sattler

Extra Tidbit: I sincerely hope that Depp's efforts in this movie spark a new kind of Native American presence in cinema. To have a project like WINDTALKERS only every once in a blue while is really something that needs to be remedied.

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