When Jerry Bruckheimer leaked the first image of Johnny Depp as the updated, Johnny Depped Tonto in Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger, it answered the question of how Depp would once more make the character his own via the acting-through-accessorizing process. Indeed, the photo confirmed Depp's Tonto would bear the increasingly common layers of pancake makeup, assorted bangles, and—most crucially—distracting headgear that is the hallmark of any modern-day Depp reinvention. But still, as Coco Chanel once said, probably, no outfit is truly complete without an overlong explanation. And so, Depp draped himself with the final beaded necklaces of symbolism and allusion in this interview with Entertainment Weekly, wherein he confirms that Tonto's look was inspired by Kirby Sattler's painting "I Am Crow," and not, as one might assume, a costuming department too intimidated to say no at this point:
"[I] looked at the face of this warrior and thought: 'That’s it.' 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. 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."
Depp says Sattler's painting also inspired the character's most talked-about aspect, with Depp taking the original's depiction of a crow flying behind its subject and, in due Depp course, fashioning it into a hat. "I thought: Tonto’s got a bird on his head," Depp says, echoing every single person who saw the photo, as well as every future audience member for the entire running time of The Lone Ranger. And of course, it was not as simple as putting a dead bird on his head without some sort of actor-y justification, because that would be silly: " It’s his spirit guide in a way," Depp concludes. "It’s dead to others, but it’s not dead to him. It’s very much alive.” It remains to be seen whether this is merely the ever-unspooling back story Depp has invented for himself, or fair warning that Depp's crow hat will be offering him wisecracking counsel.