Rango is Johnny Depp and Johnny Depp is Rango. According to the superstar, his animated alter ego in Rango is pretty close to his own persona. “[My kids] actually call me the Lizard King. I’ve forced them to address me like that since they were tykes,” Depp said and laughed. “No, but it was an odd sort of thing. ‘Where you going, Daddy?’ they’d ask. ‘Ah, I gotta go to work.’ ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Well, I’m playing a lizard.'”
Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, Bill Nighy, Harry Dean Stanton, Ray Winstone and Timothy Olyphant star in Rango, the story of a lizard who gets lost only to find his way and himself.
Depp is joining forces with director Gore Verbinski, his helmer on the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Their Rango is an uplifting tale of finding oneself in the most unique circumstances. Rango (Depp) lands in a drought-ridden desert town populated with the most eye-popping creatures — mostly of the rodent variety with a hawk and an enormous snake tossed in for villainous purposes!
Rango is part family film, part western, two-part hero origins story and above all, illustrates what a treasure Depp is as a complete performer. His Rango may go down as one of his must-see roles to witness Johnny Depp as an actor.
Johnny sat down recently at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills for a chat about Rango, his kids and how their pop culture passions drive his own and wait for it — Justin Bieber visits. Depp gets a mid-interview visit from the pop sensation!
Johnny Depp delivers…again!
SheKnows: We understand your daughter is a huge Justin Bieber fan and you took the family to his concert in December. Are you a Belieber?
Johnny Depp: A Belieber? I’ve actually never heard that one [laughs]. That is my favorite. And you know what? Yes, I am a Belieber. I am. And I shall remain so.
SheKnows: What was it about playing a lizard in this story that appealed to you about Rango?
Johnny Depp: I always had an affinity for lizards. I’ve always felt somewhat close to them. They’re reptile, feeling somewhat reptilian myself at times. No, oddly, I think, Gore might even disagree, but I feel like when we were doing Pirates 1, 2, and 3, at times when Jack Sparrow had to run, there was this very specific run that I wanted. I saw this footage of a lizard running across the water and it was like the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. So I said, “Gore, he’s got to be the lizard running across,” and he’s like, “Oh, yeah, absolutely.” So that was the whole thing. And we did it. So I actually think that Rango was somehow planted in Gore’s brain from that run, from that lizard run. And when he actually called me and said, “I want you to play a lizard,” I thought, “Well, God, I’m halfway there. I know what I’m doing.”
SheKnows: You and Gore Verbinski have worked together four times and are teaming up again, what is it about the Verbinski experience that keeps you coming back? Do you guys have an unspoken language by now?
Johnny Depp: It really is that, exactly. “Ah, let’s make, you know, maybe some more fuzz. Let’s put some more fuzz on it,” he’d say. “Okay. Gotcha.” I mean, working with Gore, in three Pirates films and Rango certainly, there are no limits to the possibilities. He allows you to try all kinds of things that sometimes fail miserably. And other times, you’ve just arrived at some place that you know no one’s ever been to before. He welcomes it and he creates an atmosphere that allows you to just go essentially ape.
SheKnows: What do you enjoy most about making movies for kids?
Johnny Depp: I think kids, in general as an audience, are the way forward because they’re not sort of sullied by intellectual expectation or this or that. It’s a very pure kind of response to the work. And the great luck that I had, for example, before Pirates 1, I had a daughter. For about four years, all I watched was like cartoons, just cartoons. I realized at that point that the parameters were far away from what we do in sort of normal, everyday movies, and that you can get away with a lot more. Kids accept a lot more, and they buy it, because they’re free. So for me, that was everything, in terms of coming up with what Captain Jack would be. So yeah, I trust kids far more than I do adults. Kids give you the honest opinion. They tell the truth.
SheKnows: Rango tells a whopper of a lie at the beginning of this film, do you think there are lies, maybe as a parent, that are par for the course?
Johnny Depp: I actually tell lies for a living [laughs]. I mean, that’s what acting is, really. I felt having kids and stuff like that, I had horrific guilt for many years, playing along with the Santa Claus thing. Do you know what I mean? And waiting for that moment to arrive, because you’re never going to bring it up to them. They’re going to arrive and say, “Hey, you’ve been telling me a lie for my entire life. What are you prepared to do about that?” I mean, it’s like that kind of thing. So yeah, I had horrific guilt. And we’re now kind of just on the outskirts of that, so I feel okay. But no, these are lies that society tells you, you must keep these lies going, these kinds of myths, and I feel guilt about it. I still do.
SheKnows: So there was no issue with telling your kids what you were doing making Rango?
Johnny Depp: You drop your kids off at school, give them a kiss and it was, “Oh, yeah, now I’m gonna go be a lizard.” [Laughs] The things that I’ve done that my kids have been sort of privy to, I mean, Willy Wonka and all, it doesn’t register. They’re far more interested in Family Guy or Justin Bieber.
Justin Bieber actually arrives at the interview to meet Johnny Depp moments later, shocking Johnny.
Justin Bieber: You know, and I’m a big fan of you so I had to come support you.
Johnny Depp: Bless you, man.
Justin Bieber: I had to come say hi. I heard you were in the building.
Johnny Depp: Bless you. We’ve established that I’m a Belieber.
Justin Bieber: You’re a Belieber and I’m a big fan of him.
Johnny Depp: Well done, man, thank you. Okay, now, who’s not a Belieber now? Aren’t we all Beliebers? Bless him. How am I going to explain this to my daughter? That was the Beatles.
SheKnows: She’ll love you for it.
(Justin Bieber actually came back and later gave Johnny Depp a couple of pairs of Justin Bieber purple 3D glasses for Depp’s children.)
SheKnows: Does the attention and appreciation from fans, even Justin Bieber, ever get a little surreal?
Johnny Depp: Attention is a strange sort of being, anyway, the idea of attention. If someone appreciates your work, it’s always nice that someone appreciates your work. But I’ve never quite understood any of the other bits, you know. Whatever, somehow you’ve been voted something for a magazine and it’s a complete mystery to me. I wake up and I have to look at that head when I brush my teeth every morning, you know. And it’s weird. And it’s unpleasant at times. So I don’t know about the attention thing.