LOS ANGELEST - SAS - Captain Jack Sparrow he successfully reinvented the pirate in popular culture, now Johnny Depp hopes to do the same for Native Americans – by shattering their Hollywood stereotype as “savages”. This mission is a deeply personal one for the superstar. Inspired by his own Native American ancestry, Johnny took on the role of Tonto in his latest film, The Lone Ranger, eager to project a more sympathetic image of the people than has gone before. And he had his old Pirates crew on board. Just like the blockbuster Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, it is a Disney movie produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. It tells the story of mystery Wild West lawman the Lone Ranger (played by Armie Hammer) through the eyes of Tonto, who, far from being just a loyal sidekick, is the brains of the operation. Johnny, 50, says: “I have always felt that, in the history of cinema, the Native American has been portrayed as a savage, or something less of a man.  “I was told I was a Creek as a kid, a Chickasaw, many different things (growing up) in Kentucky. “But I have always had a fascination and a connection with them. This film was a great opportunity to be able to try to at least chip away a little bit at the cliché. “For the old man (Tonto), I saw my great-grandmother, Minnie. She apparently had Indian blood and wore the braids and had the tobacco down her bosom. “The period was horrific in terms of the indigenous peoples of America, who forged like prisoners westward. They were forced to become Christians and abandon their culture, their beliefs and their religion.  “It’s the only thing to show these people as 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. “My hope was to embrace the cliché so it’s recognised 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 suck them in, then switch him around and take them on a different path. “Native Americans were only deemed savages when Christopher Columbus hit the wrong f***ing place and decided he was in India.” Despite his empathy with Tonto, Johnny still thinks the character would come off worse in a scrap with Captain Jack. “It’s over for Tonto, Captain Jack is far too dark,” he says. “It wouldn’t take long and it would be unpleasant.” To prepare for his latest role he immersed himself in the culture of the Comanche tribe, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The experience only deepened his respect for the people. He says: “After what their ancestors have been through, they have come out of it trying to hold on to their heritage and keep it alive.  “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.” During his time with the Comanche he witnessed a sweatbox ritual — a sort of spiritual sauna to cleanse the body and purify the mind — and was “adopted” by tribe member LaDonna Harris. He also took part in a private naming ceremony and became Mah-Woo-Meh. Johnny says: “The name they chose for me means shape-shifter, which I suppose is quite apt and I take great pride in the choice. Being adopted, what it means and what it’s meant since that day, has given me so much in my life. “I’m not a particularly spiritual person myself — the only church I have ever seen that makes sense to me is the sweatbox. I do smoke a peace pipe as often as possible, because I like peace.”