Johnny Depp Explains Why Tonto Has a Bird on His Head

April 23, 2012


As most suspected when the first photo from The Lone Ranger revealed Johnny Depp with a bird on his head, it was Johnny Depp's idea to litter avian matter atop his usual combo of makeup and wigged headband. But why did Johnny Depp decide Johnny Depp's Native American should have a bird on his head? Because Johnny Depp saw a painting once where it sort of looked like that was happening.

sattler-i-am-crow.jpgSpeaking to EntertainmentWeekly, Depp confirmed, yes, his star power has made him the master of what is plopped on his head, and he was indeed the one who decided on both the bird and the goth makeup for his Tonto costume. His motivation for this? The adjacent Kirby Sattler painting, in which, to Johnny Depp, the flying bird sort of looks like a hat and the face paint represents the sections of the self or something:

"I'd actually seen a painting by an artist named Kirby Sattler, and looked at the face of this warrior and thought: That's it," Depp said in a recent interview. "The stripes down the face and across the eyes ... it seemed to me like you could almost see the separate sections of the individual, if you know what I mean."

For those who do not know what he means, Depp continued, explaining that--despite the painted lines technically dividing his face into fifths--what they represent are the four quarters of the brain:

"There's this very wise quarter, a very tortured and hurt section, an angry and rageful section, and a very understanding and unique side. I saw these parts, almost like dissecting a brain, these slivers of the individual," he said."That makeup inspired me."

Having laid out his stripped-down, makeup-based phrenological model, Depp finally got to the more important matter at hand: why there is a bird on his head. Basically, he looked at the Sattler painting and fused foreground and background, merging bird and head into one entity he thought would look good on a movie poster:

"It just so happened Sattler had painted a bird flying directly behind the warrior's head. It looked to me like it was sitting on top," Depp said, which led him to another eureka moment. "I thought: Tonto's got a bird on his head. It's his spirit guide in a way. It's dead to others, but it's not dead to him. It's very much alive."

So that's why Johnny Depp has a bird on his head. And, I'm guessing by the "it's not dead to him" part, that's also why there will be numerous scenes of Johnny Depp talking to the bird on his head. It's the will of Johnny Depp's understanding and unique side. Figure it out, script and costume departments.

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