Admitting the makeup is inspired by Kirby Sattler's painting, Depp says that the black-and-white stripes on the Native American character's face symbolize cross sections of a man's emotional life.
Johnny Depp has revealed the origin of his Indian makeup as Tonto in upcoming film "The Lone Ranger". While some people have been speculating that the black-and-white painted makeup was inspired by Marilyn Manson, Depp opened up that he was actually inspired by Kirby Sattler's painting.
"I'd actually seen a painting by an artist named Kirby Sattler, and looked at the face of this warrior and thought: 'That's it'," the 48-year-old actor told Entertainment Weekly. "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."
The "Finding Neverland" thesp elaborated that the lines on Tonto's face symbolize cross sections of a man's emotional life. "There's this very wise quarter, a very tortured and hurt section, an angry and rageful section, and a very understanding and unique side," said the father of two. "I saw these parts, almost like dissecting a brain, these silvers of the individual. That makeup inspired me."
Depp admitted that Sattler's original painting, which is called "I Am Crow", also inspired his character headdress, which has a crow on its top. "It's 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," said the actor. "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."
Of what led him to tackle the part of Tonto in "Lone Ranger", Depp said, "The whole reason I wanted to play Tonto is to try to [mess] around with the stereotype of the American Indian that has been laid out through history, or the history of cinema at the very least - especially Tonto as the sidekick, The Lone Ranger's assistant. As you'll see, it's most definitely not that."
Depp, who is no stranger to radical transformation for a movie role, has been receiving mix reactions from the American Indian communities over his role as Tonto. Leaders of the Navajo Nation expressed their support for Depp and "The Lone Ranger", but some other Native American communities criticized Depp's portrayal of Tonto which is said to having too few authenticity.
"Lone Ranger" will reunite Depp with Gore Verbinski, who helmed the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film series. Also joining the "Alice in Wonderland" star in the cast ensemble are Armie Hammer as the titular masked ranger, William Fichtner as Butch Cavendish, Ruth Wilson as Rebecca Reid, James Badge Dale as Dan Reid, and Tom Wilkinson as Latham Cole.
Walt Disney Pictures will release "Lone Ranger" in the U.S. on May 31, 2013.