I was just watching the trailer for the upcoming Lone Ranger movie, which co-stars Johnny Depp as Tonto. Let me first state that I love Johnny Depp. I’ve been a dedicated fan of his ever since 21 Jump Street. But I can’t say that I’m happy about this particular role. This just feels like “redface” to me, getting a White actor to play a Native American character, like they used to do back in the old days. Tonto is probably the most well-known Native American fictional character, and they couldn’t get a Native American actor to play him? In 2013? This is just not cool to me.
I know Johnny Depp claims to be “part” Native American, and has a Native American tattoo, and has talked about his affinity for Native American culture for years, blah blah blah. So “technically” he may have some of the blood in him but, whatever, he’s a White man. I mean, for the record, I am half-White, so I’m much more “White” than Johnny Depp is “Native American,” but I wouldn’t cast me to play the Lone Ranger, because the Lone Ranger isn’t Black, which is what I am identified as. And I think it just sucks for all the Native American actors out there, especially the ones who can’t “pass” for some other ethnicity, because they have to hold out for race-neutral roles, and the few roles that specifically call for a Native American. And now here you have a clear Native American role and they gave it to a White man.
This is like in Snow White and The Huntsman, where they took a bunch of standard-height (I almost wrote “normal sized”, but I think that would be offensive) actors, and used CGI to make them appear to be Dwarves. It may have been a clever trick, and allowed them to cast some recognizable faces, but what about all the legitimate midget actors out there? It’s not like there’s a large demand for midget actors, in general, so now they’re even missing out on roles that are tailor made for people like them? Wake up, Hollywood!
There’s also the fact that Depp is wearing that face-paint in all the scenes, which is not something I’ve seen Tonto depicted wearing in any other portrayals of the character (maybe I’ve missed some). It’s like they know he’s not a “real” Native American, so they have to go overboard to make him up to look like one. A problem which could have been averted by casting a real Native American actor. Duh. Even his stilted speech sounds way too fake.
I was talking about this with someone on Facebook, who pointed out that they likely cast Depp because they needed an A-list actor to help sell this movie. While The Lone Ranger may be a well-known character, there probably wasn’t a huge demand for a big budget theatrical film, so Depp’s involvement undoubtedly helped get this made. But I think the answer there was that they should have cast an A-lister for the role of Lone Ranger. Heck, why couldn’t Depp have played that character, and then cast a Native American actor (like Adam Beach, whom another friend suggested) to play Tonto? Then maybe get another big name star for the villain?
Although I must say that I am happy with the choice of Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger. I was impressed with his performances in The Social Network and J. Edgar. At 6’4″ he certainly has the presence of a leading man. The rumor that Warner Bros. is considering him to be the next Batman would be a good idea, in my opinion.
So, in the end, I’m still planning to see this film. I won’t go in the theater, but when it comes on cable, I’ll check it out. I kept help it, I do love Johnny Depp