Johnny Depp looks unrecognizable in the upcoming movie The Lone Ranger, a modern version of the 1940s television and radio series.
The actor, 48, tells Entertainment Weekly he was actually inspired to update Native American Tonto's look after seeing a painting by the artist Kirby Sattler.
"I looked at the face of this warrior and thought: That's it," Depp recalls. "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."
Depp says the lines of paint on the Native American's face represent the cross-section of a man's emotional life. "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. That makeup inspired me."
"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 tells Entertainment Weekly. "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."
Though Depp's Tonto has been criticized by some members of the American Indian community, the actor hopes audiences will give him a fair shot.
"The whole reason I wanted to play Tonto is to try to [mess] around with the stereotype of the American Indian that has been laid out through history, or the history of cinema at the very least -- especially Tonto as the sidekick, The Lone Ranger's assistant," Depp says. "As you'll see, it's most definitely not that."
Starring Depp and Armie Hammer, The Lone Ranger will be directed by Gore Verbinski. At CinemaCon Tuesday, producer Jerry Bruckheimer announced that The White Stripes' Jack White will compose music for the film.
"We're going to have a little rock 'n' roll score, and I can't wait to hear his rendition of the William Tell Overture," Bruckheimer said.