This week sees the digital release of The Lone Ranger, an all-out Western adventure from the makers of Pirates of the Caribbean. In it, Johnny Depp takes on the role of Tonto, the title character’s trusty companion. In the original radio and television serials Tonto was a Sancho Panza-type figure with ‘Indian tracking skills’. In actuality, the character was created to give The Lone Ranger someone to talk to; there wasn’t much to his character beyond his loyalty to his friend.
As played by Johnny Depp in this latest incarnation, Tonto takes on-new characteristics. He’s a cracked man with his own hidden agenda and dark past; his make-up and crow hat marks him out as a very different character to your grandfather’s Tonto.
In honour of this latest eccentric inducted into The Johnny Depp Gallery of Oddballs and Weirdos, we’re looking back at some of the most outlandish characters from his career.
1. ‘Edward Scissorhands’, Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Breaking away from the ‘pretty-boy’ reputation he earned as the lead on 21 Jump Street, Depp first collaborated with director Tim Burton in this now-classic story of a man-made man with scissors in place of hands.
2. ‘Raoul Duke’, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
In playing a thinly-veiled version of Hunter S Thompson in this Terry Gilliam-directed adaptation, Depp discovered a kindred spirit in the eccentric writer. The two of them became great friends in real life, up until Thompson’s suicide in 2005.
3. ‘Willy Wonka’, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
For Tim Burton’s near-sacrilegious remake of the beloved book and film, Roald Dahl’s famous chocolatier became a Michael Jackson type-figure with an Emo Phillips haircut. The film wasn’t exactly great but Depp’s performance remains… interesting, shall we say?
4. ‘Cry-Baby Walker’, Cry-Baby 1990
In one of John Waters’ classic pastiches of suburban America, Depp plays Wade ‘Cry-Baby’ Walker, a bad-boy rocker who turns up in a town full of squares. When the girls start a-swoonin’ for him, their preppy boyfriends decide they’ve had enough his ‘rock and/or roll’. While his character is relatively straight, he does exist in the crazy world of John Waters.
5. ‘Captain Jack Sparrow’, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
It’s the film that turned a respectable character actor into The World’s Biggest Movie Star. By ‘pulling a Han Solo’ and stealing the film from under the nose of leading man Orlando Bloom, Depp single-handedly changed the pirate stereotype from ‘growling and drunk’ to ‘scruffy and sexy’.
6. ‘The Mad Hatter’, Alice in Wonderland (2010)
In yet another collaboration with Tim Burton, the Deppmeister took note of the ‘mad’ part in ‘mad hatter’ and really ran with it. In this version he’s literally schizophrenic, flitting between English and Scottish accents. Actually, thinking about it: frazzled hair, gap-teeth, wild wardrobe, fluctuating accent… is his performance a dig at Madonna?
7. ‘Edward D. Wood, Jr’, Ed Wood (1994)
As ‘the worst director in history’, Depp played cult figure Ed Wood Jr as a passionate and misunderstood artist who never shot a take he didn’t like. The fact that he also loved pink angora sweaters is just by-the-by. This is genuinely one of JD’s best and most humane performances.
8. ‘Barnabas Collins’, Dark Shadows (2012)
Buried hundreds of years ago and revived in the 1970s, vampire patriarch Barnabas Collins is your classic fish-out-of-water. He’s confused by cars, bewildered by television, and positively baffled by all the groovy lingo kids are using these days! Of course, he also has a British accent: Depp doesn’t really play Americans anymore, have you noticed?
9. ‘Sweeney Todd’, Sweeney Todd (2007)
He flexes his pipes with this Bowie-esque interpretation of Sondheim’s Demon Barber of Fleet Street. He plays a wrongfully-exiled barber who returns to London after 15 years abroad. You can tell his character is supposed to be old, because of the white streak in his hair that all old people have.
10. ‘Tonto’, The Lone Ranger (2013)
Determined to provide a less culturally-reductive version of The Lone Ranger’s trusty sidekick, Depp contacted leaders of the Comanche community before he started filming. With the support of certain Native American activists, he was invited to participate in a traditional naming ceremony where he was adopted as an ‘honorary Comanche’.
The Lone Ranger is now available the Buy and Rent at blinkbox