By Giles Hardie
I know my place. We were there because of Johnny. Please, look at the size of our pay cheques.
“This is nothing new. I remember huge outrage when Johnny wanted to play Edward Scissorhands. Everyone was like 'dude, you don't have scissors on your hands! What are you doing? Let someone who has scissors on their hands play the part!' But he did it and did a great job, just like he's going to do a great job on this one.”
“At the same time this is not like the old TV show where Tonto was there for expository reasons at best. 'Tonto go get the horses.' 'Tonto the village is about to be attacked.' That was all he was there to do was to be talked at.
“In this movie we made it better. It's a dynamic relationship between the two. They start out literally chained together then spend the rest of the movie figuratively chained together.”
But the main point here is Hammer's take on Tonto vs. Edward Scissorhands. A few responses to that:
1) Hammer was only about three years old when Edward Scissorhands came out, so I doubt he remembers anything. He may be fibbing--to himself or to us.
2) The Wikipedia entry for Edward Scissorhands doesn't mention any casting controversy. I have a vague sense that one or two people suggested a disabled person should play the title role, but a quick search doesn't reveal anything, so I may be imagining it. In any case, it can't have been serious if there's no big discussion of it.
3) More important, Edward Scissorhands is a fantasy figure with no basis in reality. Tonto is supposed to represent a real-life Comanche Indian. Depp said as much in Depp's Tonto: True or False?
Hammer has inadvertently admitted the problem with this movie. The filmmakers consider Tonto a fantasy figure just like Edward Scissorhands. "Indians aren't real, so we can make them up," they seem to be saying.
See Johnny Depp's Fantasy Figures for more on the subject.
Sure, It would've been nice if a double-amputee played Edward Scissorhands, but few of these people are actors. Not so with Indians, who have produced hundreds of actors who could've played Tonto. Casting Depp implies that Indians aren't qualified to play themselves.
And people with scissor-hands aren't a historically underrepresented and misrepresented minority. Indians are. That's more than enough reason to hire a Native actor for the role.
Someone wondered why Hammer's opinion mattered. It matters because Disney is using him as their shill to silence the criticism. Depp can't say much about his Comanche fabrications or his "Cherokee" heritage without running into questions he can't handle. So Disney got the telegenic white boy to speak on his behalf.
For more on Johnny Depp, see Inside Scoop on Lone Ranger and Depp Admires Tonto's Giant Nuts.
I thought Tonto was a fictional character, albeit one with a history. Wow, Depp's really run out of retro. Seriously, Tonto?
Tonto is a fictional character, obviously. But Indians in general and Comanches in particular aren't fictional.
You could put a fictional Civil War general in a dress and a fictional black slave in an astronaut suit, but why would you? Tonto's the same deal.
It's called verisimilitude. It's why most Westerns portray cowboys and Indians--or at least cowboys--authentically.
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