Johnny Depp explains his Bird Hat

Whether he’s playing a Comanche medicine man or a 200-year-old aristocratic vampire, one thing is for certain, Johnny Depp will be wearing fewer accessories than on an average day. Recently, he spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the origins of his bird-hat costume from Jerry Bruckheimer’s upcoming Lone Ranger movie:

“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.”

I think I do know what you mean. I translated it as “I’m so handsome and famous I can say things like this without being laughed out of the room.”

Depp explained that the lines of paint on the Native American’s face looked to him like a cross-section of the 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,” he said.”That makeup inspired me.”

Oh sure, I often point to the two-inch sliver of skin to the left of my cheek and say “this is my rageful section.” My mailbox seemed nonplussed about it, but he’s been spreading secrets about me.

The painting also provided inspiration for Tonto’s headdress. “It just so happened Sattler had painted a bird flying directly behind the warrior’s head [right, via]. 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.”


Sattler himself, who licensed the look of his painting to the filmmakers, tells EW his work is a fusion of history and fiction. “The portraits I paint are composites created from a variety of visual references coupled with my imagination,” he says. “While being broadly based in a historical context, my paintings are not intended to be viewed as historically accurate. I used the combination of face paint and  headdress as an artistic expression to symbolize the subject’s essence and his affinity to the Crow.” [EW]

So you’re telling me the hat with the bird on it is NOT a traditional American Indian headpiece? Jeez, you learn something new every day.