Interview with the director of animated feature “Rango”
It’s a Spaghetti Western, starring an animated chameleon going through an identity crisis.
Or at least, that’s how director Gore Verbinski (of Pirates of the Caribbean fame) talks about his latest JDV (Johnny Depp Vehicle), Rango.
Photo by Greg Grusby / Industrial Light & Magic
It’s the classic tale of a would-be-thespian lizard, who, after having his tank fall out of the back of a moving station wagon somewhere in the Southwest, stumbles into some sort of vermin ghost town in the desert and assumes the persona of a renegade gunslinger and then is appointed sheriff.
The film pays homage to the Western, Verbinski’s “favorite genre.”
“I think those Pirate movies were [also] Western,” he said. “When I was very young I found, you know, Sergio Leone movies, you know, Duck, You Sucker, and Once Upon a Time in the West. I saw them probably at an age-inappropriate period and felt like I was, you know, sneaking into a forbidden world. And so, I’m a fan of Western but really the post-modern Western, I mean, The Wild Bunch, the sort of—the myths are dying and it’s the end of an era. Progress is inevitable for us. The railroad’s coming. You know, with corruption, you know. There’s no—there’s no place for honest thieves any more. Those sort of things have always been present, I think, in my DNA.”
Verbinski said that he was also enthusiastic to work with Depp again, claiming that the two have created their own shared language.
“We’re the same age, I mean, a lot of similar experiences growing up, a lot of the same musical influences. So, I met him in London in a restaurant and we just, you know, stayed there until like three in the morning just talking. And, you know, then working with him, you come up with a language when you direct actors and every act is a different process and expect it to be—and evolve a little bit, you get the best out of that actor and you change how you treat one actor to another. Certainly with Johnny doing so much work together we developed a shorthand—I mean, a lot of times I’ll speak almost in sound effects and nonsensical words. You know, go up between takes, go up and underline one line dialogue and say, you know, ‘more fuzz here,’ ‘more spank on this one.’”
However tedious Rango gets after the 80-minute mark, it’s fairly successful at providing the zaniness and “site gags” necessary to sustain the interest of children that’s counterbalanced with a certain self-reflexiveness and sophistication that audiences are just now starting to see in feature-length computer-animated films. Rango subverts and co-opts the language of the conventions of genre films in a pretty cunning way, with many blatant nods to Sergio Leone and classic swashbuckler movies.
It’s simultaneously annoying and charming in the way you’d probably expect a cartoon with a lizard voiced by Johnny Depp to be. What’s notable here is that, with films like Toy Story 3 and Rango, cartoons of this sort are starting to self-consciously ingratiate themselves into the broader history of cinema.
Rango hits theaters March 4th.