Johnny Depp in 'The Lone Ranger' (Photo: Walt Disney Pictures)
Ever since Johnny Depp landed the role of Tonto in "The Lone Ranger," he has been vocal about his determination to represent the character with cultural sensitivity. Depp's Tonto is more than a mere sidekick — as was depicted in the original "Lone Ranger" radio and television shows. Tonto has now been promoted to full partner, thanks to Depp.
As the release of the Disney action adventure film draws near, Depp's feelings on Tonto and what he represents have only been emboldened. "The lies that have been perpetuated about the Native Americans for hundreds and hundreds of years now — it's time to stop," he told Yahoo! Movies during a recent interview. "It's silly, now."
Just more than a year ago, Depp, who is himself part Native American, was named an honorary Comanche. "It certainly upped the stakes a lot," he said of the experience's affect on his "Lone Ranger" role.
The actor, who recently turned 50, participated in the Comanche naming ceremony at the behest of Native American activist LaDonna Harris — who Depp calls his "Comanche mother." During the ritual, Depp was given the name "Mahwoomae," which means "shape-shifter" — certainly appropriate for someone who is known to change both physically and vocally for his film roles.
Depp happily discussed with Yahoo! Movies the impact the experience had on him. "It was beautiful," he said. "An exchanging of gifts — a real sense of honest warmth from these people."
During the traditional ceremony, Depp was smoked with cedar and prayers were recited, according to Harris.
During our interview, Depp elaborated: "Some of them have what they've got and some of them have less than that. But no matter what they're the most generous people I've ever known."
Depp's Tonto is, in fact, depicted as a Comanche Indian. "My initial approach [to Tonto] was to … do it right by them," he said. "But then when you get around these people and you learn about these people and you speak to the elders … You can't help but feel an even deeper sense of responsibility."
"The Lone Ranger" lands in theaters July 3.
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