Arts & Entertainment

Interview with Sonny Skyhawk on Indian roles in Hollywood






A poster for The Lone Ranger.

Indian Country Today interviews Sonny Skyhawk about Indian roles in Hollywood, including Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger:
What do you think about the controversy over Johnny Depp playing Tonto in Disney’s new Lone Ranger flick?

So, fast forward to today and Johnny Depp -- as I said, there’s nothing new about Hollywood painting up a white person to play an Indian. Johnny Depp is for sale as an actor and the essence of what he’s doing in this movie is trying to sell himself as an Indian and make It believable. Is it wrong for him to do that? Well, it’s wrong on different facets. What my organization, American Indians in Film and Television, has tried to do in 35 years of existence is provide jobs and open doors for Native people in this industry. So when a Johnny Depp or anyone else who’s not Native takes a job as an Indian and gets painted like an Indian, we believe he’s depriving a real Indian of a job. The second thing is when it comes to the director or the producers saying, “We’re going to cut this guy’s head off in the sweat lodge,” the non Indian will say, “Yeah, I don’t see anything wrong with that, go for it!” While an Indian would say, “Wait a minute, guys, that’s not really cool or according to our beliefs and practices.”

So, you’re opposed to Johnny Depp playing Tonto?

American Indians in Film and Television’s argument is not so much with Johnny Depp, a charlatan at his best, as it is with the machinations of Disney proper. The controversy that will haunt this endeavor and ultimately cause its demise at the box office is the behind-the-scenes concerted effort and forced manipulation by Disney to attempt to sell Johnny Depp as an American Indian. American Indians, as assimilated and mainstream as they may be today, remain adamantly resistant to anyone who falsely claims to be one of theirs. The question of Johnny Depp next playing Malcolm X, or Martin Luther King, as ridiculous as that may sound, is not farfetched as an example.

Get the Story:
Sonny Skyhawk on Johnny Depp, Disney, Indian Stereotypes and White Film Indians (Indian Country Today 6/11)