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3 YEARS

Gore Verbinski Says 'Rango' Got Creative Juices Flowing Again After 3 'Pirates' Films (Audio)

The Oscar nominated writer-director talks to THR's Scott Feinberg about his first foray into animation.

Behind the Scenes: "Rango"
Greg Grusby/Industrial Light + Magic

I recently had the opportunity to sit down for a brief chat with the writer-director Gore Verbinski about Rango, the film for which he is now a nominee for -- and the prohibitive favorite to win -- the best animated feature Oscar. I hope that you'll tune in to audio of our conversation at the top of this post!

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Verbinski is best known for directing the first three installments of Disney's blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise -- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006), and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) -- which collectively grossed over $2.75 billion worldwide. But, despite the phenomenal commercial success of the films, they had begun to become formulaic, leaving him feeling as if he was "no longer the architect" but rather "the contractor." In short, he told me, "It's boring to do the same thing."

For that reason, he decided to step about as far outside of his comfort-zone as possible and pen -- along with John Logan and James Ward Byrkit -- a story that could serve as the basis for an animated film, one of the few sorts he had yet to attempt. The result was Rango, a 2D film based on original material in an era of animation dominated by 3D sequels, which has grossed nearly $250 million around the world and won every major animation award this year except for the PGA Award and Golden Globe Award, which both went to Paramount's other awards hopeful The Adventures of Tintin. (Tintin was not nominated by the Academy.)

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Over the course of our time together, Verbinski and I discussed...

  • The motivation for making his first foray into the world of animation...
  • Reuniting with Johnny Depp after the Pirates films...
  • The space and manner in which the voiceover actors on recorded their parts for Rango, which was highly unconventional -- even revolutionary, in a sense...
  • The fact that his prior films were all of different genres, and that Rango features elements of all of them -- action-adventure (the Pirates films, which Verbinski himself sees as westerns), dark comedy (The Weather Man), horror (The Ring), and romantic-dramedy (The Mexican)...
  • The importance of finding an "angle" for a film (he reveals that, for his next film The Lone Ranger, the angle is: "Why does a good guy have to wear a mask? You know? Because we'll put him on a cross; we'll destroy him. That's the way the world is.")...
  • The fact that, in a year of movies about movies (The Artist, Hugo, Super 8, etc.), no film references more classic movies than Rango (among them Chinatown, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, High Noon, Apocalypse Now, Cat Ballou, A Fistful of Dollars, The Shakiest Gun in the West, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)...
  • The experience of collaborating on Rango with great veteran character actors like Ned Beatty and Harry Dean Stanton, who voice two of the more memorable characters in the film...