It’s always tricky casting a white actor to play a famous minority, so when Johnny Depp strapped a bird to his head to play Tonto in The Lone Ranger, those involved had to know they were going to take some heat for it (unless they’re complete idiots, and having seen Jerry Bruckheimer’s previous movies, the jury’s still out). I don’t think it’s always wrong for a white actor to play a non-white role, but if you’re an American Indian actor or an actor from another historically marginalized group, I can understand why you’d be pissed about one of the precious few roles specifically tailored to you going to a white dude. (Though for what it’s worth, Depp does describe his great grandmother as “quite a bit of a Native American.”). Meanwhile, Depp’s Lone Ranger co-star Armie Hammer, possibly the whitest man alive, says it wasn’t an issue at all, because the American Indians they talked to during filming (some of them paid consultants, presumably) all thought his kemosabe’s kabuki was hunky-dory. Hakuna matata and all that shit.
The actor turned up in Las Vegas with Depp last Wednesday to unveil 20 minutes of new footage from the film to movie theater owners at CinemaCon. Before being honored as the Male Star of Tomorrow at the conference a day later, Hammer defended his film’s depiction of Tonto, saying that the cast worked with many Native Americans on the project.
“They were nothing but excited about it. They loved it — they’re thrilled,” the actor said in an interview. “It’s so funny, because every Native American we talked to was like, ‘This is awesome! I’m so excited.’ And every white person we talked to was like, ‘How dare you cast a non-Native American?’ It’s like, the white people are the one who have the problem, but the Indians — the Native Americans — are like, ‘This is great. We love it.’” [LATimes]
Sure they did, but then again, the ones he talked to were probably hanging around craft services all day, and you know how those people get around the fire water (*pantomimes “glug-glug”*). What? What’d I say? I kid, I kid. On a serious note, Armie Hammer has to walk a delicate line defending the dubious decisions of people cutting him a huge paycheck, and as such it’s all but impossible for him not to say the occasional kinda dumb thing. I don’t have a problem with Johnny Depp playing an American Indian (not that it’s my place to…), but I do think it’s hilarious to watch them try to spin Johnny Depp starring in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie as some kind of tribute to the proud American Indian peoples. That’s basically like McDonalds calling their breakfast burritos a show of solidarity with the Latino community.