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Johnny Depp embraces absurdity as he delves into Tonto’s mind

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Updated: July 1, 2013 9:07AM

Johnny Depp doesn’t give a compliment in the usual way. Nothing if not original, he won’t tell you that someone is a genius, an intellect or “an” anything.

When he tosses a good review toward his “Lone Ranger” director, Gore Verbinski, on the eve of their fifth collaboration together, he makes it extra meaningful in a Depp kind of way.

“[Verbinski] has a wonderful respect for absurdity, which is the only way to go through life,” he says. “If nothing else, you must be absurd.”

It’s not absurd at all to Depp that he’s taking on the iconic role of Tonto in a big-screen version of “The Lone Ranger.”.

Depp knew all about that masked man. But as a kid glued to his TV set in Florida, he felt the injustice when he curled up on the floor to watch the classic series “The Lone Ranger.”

“I just didn’t understand why Tonto was called the sidekick. I always felt a little unnerved about it because Tonto was the most interesting one to me.”

How did he prepare to play the iconic Native American character?

“I really had to find a way into the character to make it different,” says Depp, who researched Native Americans.

“I studied all nations. The goal was to try to find my own way into Tonto and show him as not only a proud warrior but also a man on the outside.”

Teaming with Verbinski again gave him a safety net.

“It’s my fifth time with Gore,” says Depp, who worked with Verbinski for several “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and the animated “Rango.”

“It’s always an adventure and not just in the physical sense,” he says. “It’s an adventure into the character. But there is also this shorthand and a great sort of understanding.”

Depp did feel like a bit of an outsider on a horse. He took a spill or two.

“The most difficult thing was staying alive when I was on a horse that was moving at high speeds. You realize that you really are at the mercy of that horse,” he said.

“All you see is the stride of those enormous muscles in his enormous body. All you can think about is how very close you are to falling.“I was worried about landing under those hooves,” he says. “At that moment, the horse wouldn’t care if I was some film actor. I’d just be that thing between him and the dirt.”


Cindy Pearlman

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