Captain Jack Sparrow, Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka, Sweeney Todd... the list goes on and on and on and on when it comes to the colorful characters that Johnny Depp has played. It not only makes for a fascinating actor's resume, but also a strong wealth of resources to pull from in playing Rango, the star of the animated movie of the same name that arrived on Blu-ray and DVD last week.
MTV News spoke with director Gore Verbinski about the movie late last week, and the filmmaker explained that in many ways, Rango and Johnny are very similar. Describing Rango as "a guy who actually doesn't know who he is and can be all these characters" — something that comes with the territory of being a chameleon, naturally — Verbinski said that "Johnny is like" that as well.
"There's a little bit of Scissorhands in him, and there's a little bit of Jack Sparrow in him, and Ed Wood, and it's like — what's left?" he told us. "I think those characters are the most interesting, the ones that are flawed. We knew we were going to have those sort of 'bad-ass' characters taken care of—those archetypes existed, Rattlesnake Jake and what-not. It just was always a kind of identity tale of a 'great pretender' story."
Johnny, who is very much a great pretender in his own right (in the most flattering sense, of course), was both very involved and very much not involved in creating the character at the core of "Rango," said Verbinski.
"He's incredibly involved or not involved at all in two ways," he said. "One, he's present all the time, because I've made three movies with him and because we're friends and because I sort of designed this thing from the ground up with him in mind, very much with a sort of sense of what he loves to do, and enjoys doing and you know it's like building a car and saying 'he's just going to love to drive this.'"
"But we spent a year and a half in my house with seven artists, a Macintosh computer and a microphone, just drawing and storyboards and doing voices and really experimenting always with, you know with Johnny in mind, but [without him being there]," he added. "The character, the drawings start to tell you things. It's weird and I can't explain it, but there's a point where your film tells you what it wants to be and you're in service of that."
Even if he wasn't physically present throughout the creative process, Verbinski said that "Rango" could not exist without Depp's participation.
"I had a 12 page outline when I brought it up to him and said, 'Do you want to play the lizard?' and he was very gracious, without fully comprehending the narrative, with the obligation or anything, he committed early, early on," said the director. "So I was never in that position where I had to think about [doing the movie without Depp]. I can't imagine doing the movie without him, because I never did imagine."
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