Johnny Depp wants 'The Lone Ranger' to back off Tonto: Why is the f–––ing Lone Ranger telling Tonto what to do?'


Image Credit: Kevin Mazur/

Johnny Depp hopes to make a big-screen version of The Lone Ranger soon, but the masked guy who ends up yelling “Hi-yo, Silver!” better get used to being the sidekick.

This is sounding like Tonto’s movie.

“I remember watching it as a kid, with Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore, and going: ‘Why is the f—ing Lone Ranger telling Tonto what to do?'” Depp tells EW, recalling the 1949-1957 TV show, which was seen decades longer in reruns. “I liked Tonto, even at that tender age, and knew Tonto was getting the unpleasant end of the stick here. That’s stuck with me. And when the idea came up [for the movie], I started thinking about Tonto and what could be done in my own small way try to — ‘eliminate’ isn’t possible — but reinvent the relationship, to attempt to take some of the ugliness thrown on the Native Americans, not only in The Lone Ranger, but the way Indians were treated throughout history of cinema, and turn it on its head.” 

Tonto’s treatment especially bugged him because Depp had always been told his family was part Indian. “I guess I have some Native American somewhere down the line,” he says. “My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek.”

Depp is proud of that heritage, though it haunts him a little too. He imagines that at some point, his ancestors were subjected to horrifying violence, and the family offspring who came from those early couplings may not have occurred through consent.


Image Credit: Everett Collection

“The interesting thing,” he notes, “if you find out you’ve got Native American blood, which a lot of people do, is you think about where it comes from and go back and read the great books, Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee or [John Ehle’s] Trail of Tears, you have to think, somewhere along the line, I’m the product of some horrific rape. You just have that little sliver in your chemical makeup.”

The Lone Ranger film would be shot with Depp’s longtime friend Gore Verbinski, who directed the previous three Pirates of the Caribbean movies and Rango with him.

For more movie news, follow Anthony Breznican on Twitter @Breznican

Read more:
Ryan Gosling not starring in Disney’s ‘Lone Ranger’
Gore Verbinski rides with Johnny Depp for ‘The Lone Ranger’
Happy Trails! 34 Great Pop Culture Cowboys and Cowgals

Comments (168 total) Add your comment
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  • Frank Anderson

    I hope they hire Timothy Olyphant for the Lone Ranger role. I think he could bring the hardness you need for the action lead aspects and the humility, charm,and humor needed to take the character to the next level.

    • John

      Normally people respond here with a lot of nonsense. THIS however is a genius suggestion.

    • joe luck

      Except it sounds like they are making the Lone Ranger sort of an a-hole.

      • DTO

        Yeah, I’ve already heard they’ve hired Armie “the Wnklevi” Hammer for the role. So I guess Tonto gets to tell the snot-nosed punk what to do here and the youngster inexplicably gets the credit and recognition?

      • Tom

        Oh good, for a moment there I thought they were going to forever ruin a classic american idea

      • Lois

        I’ve heard that “kemosobie” (not sure of the spelling) means a-hole. If that is true he called the lone ranger that every day. LOL

      • Shirley

        Kimosabe means to “secretly watch” It is a Cree word (Canadian).

    • Maria

      Timothy Olyphant gets my vote too.

    • Betty

      You sir are brilliant. Olyphant would be awesome.

    • Andy

      Depp and Olyphant – GREAT suggestion. Zero interest in a reboot of this franchise, but these two could bring some serious edge to the story.

    • Raheem

      I love the Timothy Olyphant suggestion. He’s got the gravitas and sly twinkle to share the screen with Depp AND make the Lone Ranger more than just a stock hero. As a second choice, what about Nathan Fillion or “Lost’s” Josh Holloway? We’ll probably never see Fillion as “Firefly’s” Mal Reynolds again, but bringing to life a pop culture icon could be a decent consolation prize.

      • Greg

        Like it all. I was also thinking of Patrick Warburton (The Tick) if they’re going the funny route. Timothy Olyphant can do no wrong. Justified is so good!

  • joe luck

    So basically, it’s going to do what Green Hornet tried to do with Kato.

  • DTO

    I understand what Depp’s trying to do with this and it could be funny, but making Tonto “the smart one” isn’t going to erase all the pain that Native Americans have experienced in the past. Also, given his political talk in promoting this movie, it better be more BLAZING SADDLES than PIRATES OF THE CARIBEAN(sp?).

  • Cheri

    I don’t think he’s trying to make the LR look bad. He’s looking for some kind of balance in the relationship of both characters. In the past on screen whether it was tv or movie,they made Native mericans look bad. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    • BoBo

      The series was called “The Lone Ranger.” It wasn’t called “The Lone Ranger and Tonto.” So, of course the Lone Ranger was the focus. Depp thought it would be cool to play Tonto, now wants to re-write it so he is the star. He just wants the money and glory. And this business about him being proud of his heritage is total BS. If you were proud, you’d know what tribe you belonged to. His comments are all about selling a movie.

      • Deborah

        Johnny’s Cherokee heritage comes from both sides of his family, but is particularly strong on his mother’s side. Johnny’s great-grandmother, Minnie, was a full-blooded Cherokee. He also has Irish and German ancestry. He discussed his ethnicity in a television interview in 2002:

      • Marooned

        “If you were proud, you’d know what tribe you belonged to. His comments are all about selling a movie.”

        Can’t speculate about selling a movie (though probably true), but it isn’t always easy to pin down what tribe an ancestor belonged to. My great-grandfather was half Native American, but he grew up in an orphanage so he never knew which people he belonged to. If he didn’t know, how am I supposed to?

      • angela

        Um, I think its pretty safe to say at this point Johnny Depp does not have to do anything for money and glory.

        Perhaps you’re not aware of his background, but he has spoke of his heritage many many times as far back as the 1980s. He has a tattoo of an Indian chief on his arm that he got when he was 17 to honor his heritage, and he has played a Native American character before in a movie he directed himself called The Brave in 1997.

      • wagepeace

        what is your bitter little pill?….be informed…Johnny has grown to be a spokesperson and he cares about people in general…he does not buy into the Hollywood bull sh*t…get a clue, he is one of the good guys. You can look at him and see the American Indian in his well do you know your family tree??……..wp

    • bornseedbeader

      Marooned, you are a fool! One of my parents was raised by his mothers parents and denied knowing his Indian family. I’m very, very proud of being part Indian. As for what tribe, I have NO idea, I’m aware of being part Cherokee. but other then that I have tried to find answers for 37 years. So for any and all of you that say you cant be PROUD of part of your heritage because you don’t know what tribe. My great grandmother was Cherokee and passed away when i was little. Not much of my family knows anything.

      • bornseedbeader

        I ment to say I agree with marooned (ss) and that the person calling themselves lol was a fool. sorry, anger took over my fingers and I typed to fast..

  • Mongo

    guess we didn’t play cowboys and indians long enough

    • Tom

      mongo no like movies.. mongo friend

  • BobS

    Since when did Tonto turn into Aunt Jehmima? I don’t recall Tonto being abused. His role (theatrically) was “second lead”, not “diminished personality”. I don’t recall the LR treating him with anything except respect.

    • Bob L

      No kidding – The Lone Ranger obviously loved Tonto and always treated him with respect – the series already addressed the piss-poor treatment of the American indians. I watched them all – Depp’s 60 years too late and , as usual, off base.

  • BobS

    Am I somehow forgetting the “Let’s Beat Tonto” episode that the LR did in conjunction with Bat Masterson and Sugerfoot?

  • LOL

    “My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian.”
    “Depp is proud of that heritage”
    Although, not proud enough to know which tribe his great grandmother belonged to. Come on Johnny, at least know which tribe she belonged to when you pretend to be proud of it.

    • Suncatcher

      I did my homework and found I am part Wampanoag. Further study shows I should therefore be getting a casino and most of Martha’s Vineyard. Johnny! Worth looking into!

    • cat

      Hey, did you forget that the white people totally slaughtered the native Americans? That’s why most people know their Indian but they don’t know what tribe! I only know I’m wasco Indian because my grandfather was born on the reservation. This goes to all the ignorant people who said “if your proud why don’t you know your tribe?”AGAIN! WE WERE SLAUGHTERED TO NEAR ANNIHILATION!

      • bornseedbeader

        My father was from KY! He was raised by his mothers parents and denied knowing his Indian family. I’m very, very proud of being part Indian. As for what tribe, I have NO idea, I’m aware of being part Cherokee. but other then that I have tried to find answers for 37 years. So for any and all of you that say you cant be PROUD of part of your heritage because you don’t know what tribe then you are are also fools.

  • Brett

    This sounds like an epic failure in the making.

    • Tom

      But spiderman on broadway didn’t sound like a bad idea to anyone either.

  • rey

    i never understood as to why the lone ranger waers a mask and tonto doesnt.

    • Suncatcher

      As I recall, the Lone Ranger was a Texas Ranger who was ambushed and left to die. Tonto found him and nursed him back to health. The Ranger decided to let people keep thinking he was dead and go on with his job – now as “The Lone Ranger.” Tonto rode with him but did not need the anonimity.

      • Suncatcher

        A better question might be why TLR’s horse, Silver, does not wear a mask. As I recall, Silver was ambushed by another stallion and left to die. Tonto and TLR found him and nursed him back to health. For some reason, Silver did not want the anonimity either. Go figure. Hi Ho, Silver?

  • CK from DC

    Since Hollywood is rebooting every other franchise, it doesn’t surprise me that the Long Ranger’s back near the top of the list. And switching LR with Tonto as the brains of the duo may not be original (how many different Sherlock Holmes are there now, where Watson is the smart one?), but it’s PC, and it’ll sell some merchandise, so why not?

    Besides, I’d love to see Bill Cosby’s LR-Tonto conversation on screen.
    “Tonto, you go to town. ”
    “You go to hell, kemosabe.”

    • fish eye no miko

      The only Sherlock Holmes I’ve seen where they made Watson “the smart one” (I’m assuming you mean, actually smarter than Sherlock?) was a spoof where Watson created Holmes, then hired an actor to play the part (“Without a Clue”, with Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine). Yes, recent versions have portrayed Watson as intelligent and competent, as opposed to a stupid fat bungler, but that’s not the same as making him “the smart one”.

      Re: Bill Cosby: Tonto, don’t go to town! They’re just gonna beat you up again!

    • gumbo limbo

      I read somewhere that “Kemo Sabe” means “Honeybunch.” The more you think about it, the funnier it gets.

      • Suncatcher

        I did. It does.
        I’m still laughing.

      • AL Wilkins

        It sounds a bit more like a reply, in Spanish, to the Spanish’Tonto,'”Que no sabe” Machine Translation “That does not know” Original Text “Que no sabe”

      • Larry

        Get it straight people. Kemosabe in native american language means
        FRIEND. It really doesn’t matter what a word means in spanish, russian, english or etc. Stick with the the series and by the way Lone Ranger always treated Tonto with respect. In every 2 person fictional team there is a leader and a second. ie>Batman & Robin, and etc.

      • reelndn

        “Kemosabee”, is an Algonquin word for ” one who hides”, “Tonto” is spanish slang for “stupid” or “dumb”.

      • Glayzia

        Agreed, he failed to cpmoly, and had ample opportunity to disperse. But there is a point where we have to question authority, or evil may occur. History is loaded with examples. And granted, if you choose to stand up, you risk the wrath of the state, even if you are right. I’m not saying I agree with the Occupy folks. But the force used was unjustifiable. It was clearly abusive. My opinion is that if they wanted to arrest him, they should have gone hands on first, and resort to escalating methods if it got out of control. But to beat an man with a baton and put him in intensive care for speaking calmly while backing away from the police? I’ll even argue he WAS cpmolying, just not at the speed they wanted. His crime is that he wasn’t submissive enough. He was moving away from them, but was still facing them. Should he have known he risked arrest? Yes, certainly. Should he have expected the cops to act like irrational thugs? No.

    • mike

      No, you gotta go Red Fox here, “LR – Tonto my guns, T – Get your own damn guns”.

    • angela

      Remaking a film and rebooting a film franchise are not interchangeable words.

  • Jaume Garcia (BCN)

    Well, I think I have the answer to the question. I’m from Spain, you know, the country that discovered America, and we speack in spanish. Well, in spanish Tonto means “Dumb”. Literally.
    As you can imagine, in Spain the character name was translated as Toro, what it means “Bull”. If Mr. Deep wants to dignify the role, this dignification maybe will begin changing his name.

    • Dag

      Obviously Natives were here first. haha. Columbus, great accomplishments notwithstanding (sailing that far in those days was no joke) is still one of the most overrated “explorers” in history, in my opinion.

      • R rating

        And while Spain financed the mission, Columbus was, in fact, Italian.

      • Tom

        That explains why it was instead a viking that discovered america in 1000 AD.

      • the world

        Columbus should have been renamed Dumbass. When he landed in America, he thought it was actually India, thus he named the first natives he saw as Indians. Dumbass indeed.

    • Rocco Olivetti

      I had a spanish teacher point that out once, and he also had a theory (which I have never seen authority for anywhere) that Kemosabe is from “el que no sabe” and that both names were an inside joke from back when no one spoke Spanish in Hollywood.

    • @juame

      No offense but you are actually from a country that financed an expedition to find a faster route to India. Columbus was, for all intents, lost and “discovered” a place that the natives had known existed for generations.

    • Rubym

      Well, Native Americans, or whatever term is used in various countries of North or South America ‘discovered’ America, thousands of years earlier. And there were some like the Vikings who got here but it really did not make much difference, because their trips here did not lead to more exploration or trade. Columbus was the first whose accounts of the voyages went back to Europe, to the King of Spain, who financed his trip, and got more explorers interested, even though Columbus always thought he found Asia, apparently.

      • EP

        Actually it was the QUEEN of Spain, Isabella, who financed Columbus’s trip.

    • Cindy

      Spaniards must deal with their mentality that denies the existences of Native American cultures by affirming they “discovered” America.

    • Mark

      Leif Erickson was the first white settler in America. He got here around 1000 A.D. So Spaniards did NOT discover America.

      • dee123

        I doubt any of you are American because you’re not suppose to know 1 iota of information about any country but you’re own.

  • James

    Mr. Depp might want to look more into Native American history. Cherokee were found mostly in NC, Tenneesee and Georgia (my Cherokee heritange on both sides of my family is NC and Georgia). Creek were mostly southern Georgia and Florida. They may both have been at some time in Kentucky, but not in huge numbers. Both were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma. He may be part Cherokee or Creek, but that is a bit like saying I am part Asian, but I don’t know if it is Chinese or Japanese–two very different things. If you are truly proud of your Native heritage, take the time to find out which heritage it is.

  • JonSE

    Depp is a dumbass! I’ll be seeing this movie like I saw pirates movies–not.

    • sonnie

      A wee bit jealous there lad ???

      • Pittner

        Saying someone is jealous is the lamest comment someone could possibly make. Try being a little more creative with your insults.

      • takes

        I’m not sure why everyone resorts to calling someone jealous simply for having an opinion.

        I disagree with JonSE, but let someone have an opinion without ridiculing them!

  • John Huston

    No, no, Johhny Depp–make a movie about Tonto and the Lone Ranger being two gay guys roaming the West. C’mon, the Lone Ranger wears tights, never had a girlfriend (neither did Tonto), he and Tonto are inseparable…do a scene where he and Tonto try to get married in the Old West but the minister refuses and the townsfolk try to hang them.

    • Suncatcher

      So far the closest thing to TLR and Tonto has been Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. THAT was a hoot! Hi Ho Silverstein!

    • Gabari

      This is a good story and I think that Ford did a good thing by contacting you imemdiately. It’s probably easier to keeps tabs on social media and the news than direct complaints held in queue.Good for you for boldly blogging about it too.

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