January 18, 2011

New approach to the Lone Ranger?

Johnny Depp Says The Lone Ranger Will Allow Him To Salute His Native American Ancestry

By Eric EisenbergThis past weekend the majority of movie-goers flocked to see The Green Hornet, the film pulled in $40 million in its three day opening. One of the more interesting aspects of the movie is the way that the hero/sidekick dynamic is flipped, with Kato being a genius martial artist and brilliant with gadgetry, while the Green Hornet is a bit of a schlub. According to Johnny Depp, that very same dynamic will find its way into the film about Britt Reid's grand-uncle, The Lone Ranger.

The actor recently spoke with EW about the upcoming film, which will be directed by longtime collaborator Gore Verbinski, and one of the biggest draws of the project to him is it's treatment of Native American characters. Depp, who is part Cherokee and will be playing Tonto in the movie, recognizes the horrible on-screen representation of Native Americans in film history and sees this project as a way of repairing that image.

“It’s a real opportunity for me to give a salute to them. Tonto was a sidekick in all the Lone Ranger series. [This film] is a very different approach to that partnership. And a funny one I think.”
Comment:  If Depp is talking about an approach in which the Ranger is a novice or bungler and Tonto is the brains of the operation who makes fun of him, that isn't new or fresh. Indeed, it's been done several times before.

A better way to repair the image of Natives in film, and to salute Depp's Native heritage, would be to cast an actual Native to play Tonto. Then people would learn that Natives still exist, they can act, and they can carry potential blockbuster films. They won't learn any of that with Depp taking the Native role.

For more on the subject, see Depp Goes Native for Tonto and Sppoky Stuff in Depp's Lone Ranger.


Burt said...

I agree. Although Depp claims Cherokee blood should not qualify him as Tonto. Even the original series used an actual native in Jay Silverheels.

The Lone Ranger is after all from a comic book cartoonish origin in its inception, so hopefully there won't be any scenes of peyote or native language since the only word ever used was "kemosabe" and the Lone Ranger always seemed to get rescued by Tonto, but remained the headliner.

At least in the LR series, the villains were always the cowboys for a change!

Anonymous said...

This happens all the time, even in pro-native works like At Play in the Fields of the Lord. The fun result is that Berenger-as-Moon's bronze washes off when he's bathing.