By Pau De Arco
Johnny Depp, who is known for his versatile movie portrayals such as Edward Scissorhands, Willie Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of Caribbean-to name a few, is eager to start preparation for his role as Tonto in a Lone Ranger movie by shacking up with some real American Indians.
“Johnny has identified a tribe and wants to live with them as part of his preparation for the movie,” reveals a source close to the star.
“He wants to depict Tonto as a true Indian and not a cliché from an old Western. He’s ready to work and live authentically too. There will be no luxuries. He’s just waiting for the movie to get the go ahead.”
Superficially, Depp's move sounds good. But here's why it isn't:
For starters, which tribe? There are 565 of them and they're all as different as European, Asian, or African countries. Tonto belonged to one tribe--supposedly the Apache--not all tribes. Unless Depp stays with some Apaches, he won't necessarily learn what he should.
Next, how long? A week? A month? I'd say a month is the minimum you'd need to start breaking down your preconceptions. True understanding probably would take years. I'm guessing Depp won't stay long enough to learn anything substantial.
The meta-message of Depp's announcement is this: He isn't a real Indian and he doesn't know anything about being a real Indian. He's tacitly admitting this by going to live with real Indians. Why not just hire a real Indian rather than go through this rigamarole?
Depp is taking a major role from a Native actor. He's putting on redface and planning an "authentic" minstrel show. He gets the wealth and fame while Native actors continue to languish.
For more on the subject, see Spooky Stuff in Depp's Lone Ranger and Depp to Brainstorm Tonto.