Rango features a lot of staples of classic Westerns, including an appearance by a character who sounds convincingly like Clint Eastwood, but is the Spirit of the West really voiced by the noted Western star? He appears to Rango, a skittish chameleon house pet played by Johnny Depp, during a time of self-doubt and reflection when he’s supposed to be protecting his town from outlaws, but has lost his sense of identity after becoming sheriff. Like a mirage, the Spirit of the West manifests from the desert riding a golf cart to offer the youngster advice and inspire him to be bold when all he wants is to blend in.
Rango serves as both a satire and homage to the Western genre, so it makes sense to include a transmogrified version of one of its biggest icons. Eastwood’s no-nonsense gunslinger archetype has taken on many forms, including The Man With No Name inspiring Boba Fett in Star Wars, serving as the template for today’s modern antiheroes, right down to the hat and poncho. An Eastwood cameo isn’t the only one that appears in Rango to help the terrified sheriff become a real hero in the face of gut-toting rattlesnakes and ornery Gila monsters, and others add whimsy to the movie that beat Pixar and Disney for Best Animated Film in 2012.
No, Clint Eastwood Isn’t Actually In Rango
While Rango uses Eastwood’s likeness and aspects of The Man With No Name, one of his most famous characters from the Dollars trilogy, the Spirit of the West is not actually voiced by him. Timothy Olyphant, who starred in several popular Western television series including HBO’s Deadwood and FOX’s Justified, was able to capture Eastwood’s inflection and mannerisms enough to fool listeners. When Olyphant purrs, “No man can walk out on his own story,” it sounds exactly like Eastwood’s signature mysterious stranger.
The Spirit of the West acts as a guide and mentor to Rango during his brief cameo, inhabiting and representing all the themes associated with the American Frontier. He’s stoic and dignified, and carries himself with integrity and gravitas, like an elder cowboy statesman. Eastwood is easily recognizable and often identified with the Wild West, so it’s not surprising his likeness was used as a mentor for Rango, making the spot-on impersonation by Olyphant even more impressive.
Other Cameos In Rango Explained
Not only does an Eastwood-esque cameo appear in Rango, but Benicio Del Toro and Depp both reprise their Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas roles when Rango unexpectedly hits the character’s windshield as they cruise through the Nevada desert. Because a portion of Rango’s story includes a water shortage in Vegas, it makes sense to include Benicio’s likeness as Dr. Gonzo, activist and novelist, and Raoul Duke, Depp’s character based on real author Hunter S. Thompson. Director Gore Verbinski also plays myriad supporting characters in small roles: Sergeant Turkey, Crevice, Lupe the mariachi owl, and Slim, a vulture.
Rango is a celebration of Westerns and of cinema, in general, with references to Eastwood films as well as zany comedies from the Cohen Brothers like Raising Arizona, and even film-noir Chinatown and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. As a vibrant animated movie created with care at a time when 3D movies were huge and Verbinski was fresh off of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, its careful use of Easter eggs and cameos made it stand out. Like the Spirit of the West, Rango’s voice-acting and creative choices make it a timeless classic.