Johnny Depp Interview – The Lone Ranger: “I’m used to living like a fugitive now, so it doesn’t really matter. Anonymity? I remember it, it ain’t there no more…”
Kentucky-born actor, Johnny Depp, who just turned 50, stars in The Lone Ranger, opposite Armie Hammer and British-born Ruth Wilson in the upcoming blockbuster. Recently separated from long-term girlfriend and French actress, Vanessa Paradis, with whom he has two children, Lily-Rose, born 1999, and son, Jack, born 2002, he is allegedly in a relationship with Amber Heard, 27 whom he starred with in The Rum Diary in 2011. In Santa Fe, where much of the film was shot, Depp and cast are reunited at the Bishop’s Lodge resort to promote the movie.
His hair is much shorter than usual; he’s practically clean shaven, is wearing horn-rimmed glasses and is without his usual array of scarves, necklaces or hat. The now clean-living Depp is holding a non-alcoholic beer (he reportedly gave up alcohol for Heard), and looks healthy and happy.
Q: The whole framing of this movie, you being an old man, I was wondering what was it like the first time you saw yourself in makeup. Do you think you’ll look like that forever because you have a very youthful appearance?
Bless you. For the old man, I saw my great-grandmother. She apparently had Indian blood, and wore the braids and had the tobacco down her bosom, so yeah, the sort of idea was just to scope in the era of my grand-grandmother. And Joel Harwell, a magnificent makeup technician, killed it, he just killed it.
Q: Why are you so interested in the Native American?
I have always felt and I learned more about this great mentor, father, friend that I had in Marlon Brando, that in the history of cinema, the Native American has been portrayed as a savage, or something less of a man. So it was important to me to at least take a good shot at the race in that.
Q: Do you like the outdoors, do you like camping, and did you smoke the peace pipe?
I do smoke a peace pipe. (Laughter) As often as possible. (Laughter) Because I like peace. (laughter). The coach, for example of the Comanche, being not nearly welcomed as a part of a nation, but just really being adopted and what that means, what it’s meant since that day, has given me so much in my life. I’m not particularly a spiritual person myself, but the only church I have ever seen that makes sense to me, is the Sweat Box. So I think they have been on the right track, we just all missed it. (laughter)
Q: What’s your favorite Western movie and why?
This is a tough one, there’s so many great westerns. I will admit to not seeing the film, but I feel somehow that Jim Jarmusch made a great, amazing epic poem of a western with Dead Man. I haven’t seen the film. (Laughter) But I love Jim and I know what he’s capable of and from what I have heard, and I did read the script by the way, it was wonderful.
Q: Did you want to educate the younger generation about westerns and about Native Americans?
My hope was to try to almost in a weird way, embrace the cliché so that it’s recognized by people who have been conditioned to watch the Native American and see how the Native American has been represented in film. So it was a kind of a trick in a weird way to sort of suck them in, and then switch him around and take them on a different path. So in a way, I had to embrace what is deemed as cliché for Tonto. I wanted to convey that Native Americans were only deemed savages when Christopher Columbo (laughter) hit the wrong fucking place and decided that he’s in India. That’s our history. He thought he hit India and called the people Indian. That’s our history. That’s pretty fucking weird. Seriously.
Q: You met with the Indians and you talked with them. What is the one thing that you learned from it and what have you learned from them as western people?
What I learned from it is, from generation after generation after generation of what their ancestors have been through, that they have come out of it with yes, some have fallen along the way, but the majority, the elders, some of the kids, are trying to hold onto that heritage, and keep it alive and what I learned is that they are warriors, they are warriors, still. Even if you lose your way, now and again, you are still a war hero. And they are. They have made it this far. It’s incredible.
I am intrigued by everything really. It doesn’t take much for me; I’m a pretty cheap date. (laughter) I can be intrigued by the carpet. In fact, I am intrigued by the carpet. (laughter) I’ve been staring at it for a while now, and it’s still the same. So I’ve learned that much. But no, I think if you lose curiosity in life, if you lose the basic sort of idea of becoming fascinated with whatever, or interesting, whatever, you keep your curiosity in life, and I think it keeps you young beyond numbers. And thank you, I’m 60. (laughter)
Q: In your approach of Tonto, were you worried at all that some might perceive it as a red version of blackface, and if Tonto and Captain Jack fought till the end in a cage, who would win?
It’s over for Tonto. (laughter) I don’t know. Yeah, it’s over for Tonto, Captain Jack is far too dark. It wouldn’t take long and it would be unpleasant. And the fear or some repercussion of my portrayal, there already has been and it’s okay. I expected it, I still expect it, but as long as I know that I have done no harm, and represented at the very least the Comanche Nation in a proper light, there’s always going to be naysayers, there’s always going to be, everybody has got an opinion man. The great Christopher Hitchens quote, that he said that, everybody, everyone in the world has a book inside them, and that’s exactly where it should stay. (laughter) So people can critique and dissect and do what they want, I know that I approached it in the right way. And that’s all I can do.
Q: If you could trade anything in the world, just like Tonto, what would it be?
I don’t want to trade anything. (laughter) Something? A used bar of soap, (laughter) everything is good man, I don’t want nothing.
Q: Would you trade something for anonymity?
That’s been long dead. (laughter) I’m used to living like a fugitive now, so it doesn’t really matter. Anonymity? I remember it, it ain’t there no more, so would I trade it? I don’t know. I like my life. No, I don’t want to trade nothing.
Q: What is the portrayal of the America that you wanted to give to the audience? This was a particular period in America, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, are two examples of two men who are there inside the story of that period, so can you tell us something in your words?
The period was a horrific period in terms of the indigenous peoples of America, who forged like prisoners westward. And they were forced to become Christians and Catholics and abandon their culture, and their beliefs and their religion, so it was a very insane time for those people. What I loved about the idea of Tonto was, and I talked about it early on, was that he’s a band apart. He feels that there was done a horrible act on his people, therefore, shamed, he goes out on his own to avenge that and it’s the only thing, to be able to try to show these people as, as I said before, warriors, which is what they are, even in the face of some hideous corporal smacking them around or shooting them in the foot or raping their women, there was a whole lot of history there. Fort Sill is filled with it.
Q: You mentioned you had an ancestor that was Native American, can you elaborate on that?
You know, the weird thing is, you are only told that as a child. I was told I was Cherokee as a kid, I was told I was Creek as a kid, Chickasaw, so many different things in Kentucky. I mean growing up, you just knew that somebody told you what they told you, but I have always had a fascination and a connection with them and this film was a great opportunity to be able to try to at least, as I said, chip away a little bit at the cliché.
Q: Thank you.
Viva Press 2013