Rango - Isla Fisher
Actress Isla Fisher, who voices Beans, behind the scenes © 2011 Paramount Pictures

The two female lead voices for Gore Verbinski’s animated movie Rango are Abigail Breslin, who play Priscilla, and Isla Fisher who voices Beans.

Abigail Breslin began her career at five years old portraying Mel Gibson’s daughter in M. Night Shyamalan’s 2002 thriller Signs. She went on to star in Nim’s Island, Kit Kitteredge: An American Girl, Zombieland and the Oscar nominated movie, Little Miss Sunshine. This spring she will portray Helen Keller in a Broadway revival of The Miracle Worker.

Australian actress Isla Fisher is most widely recognized for her critically-acclaimed performance as Vince Vaughn’s off-kilter love interest in The Wedding Crashers and as the star of Confessions of a Shopaholic. Her additional credits include Definitely, Maybe, The Lookout, I Heart Huckabees, and her voice work in Horton Hears a Who.

At the press day for Rango, both actresses spoke of their participation in this unique animated feature.

Who do you play in this?

Rango - Abigail Breslin
Actress Abigail Breslin, who voices Priscilla, behind the scenes © 2011 Paramount Pictures

Abigail: I play Priscilla, she’s a mouse and she looks like a schoolgirl. She’s very morbid, dry, tough and not trusting of people. I would describe her like a Madeline meets Emily-the-Strange, but in Priscilla form.

She meet Rango, who is this lizard and he stumbles into this town of Dirt when he’s lost in the desert and takes on this persona of being a sheriff, which backfires on him a little bit.

Isla: I play Beans in the movie and she’s the love interest of Johnny Depp’s Rango. She is a very strong, very decisive, very confident lizard and she’s kind of the co-hero of the movie, because thanks to her strength of character she grabs Rango who is kind of floundering about in his lies, and takes him on this mission to find the water.

So it was really exciting for me to be in an animated movie where I wasn’t a damsel-in-distress, where I was a strong woman and a good role model for young girls out there. If Clint Eastwood and Holly Hunter would have a love child, that would be Beans.

How much of the characters did you get to see before you started doing the movie?

Rango - Abigail Breslin
Priscilla (Abigail Breslin) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

Abigail: I saw a picture of Priscilla. She’s such a glamour girl. I thought she was adorable. But I thought all the characters were pretty cute, but in a strange way. They’re not cuddly, it’s not like you want to hold them.

Isla: I loved seeing Beans for the first time. All the creatures in this movie, it’s quite hard to tell what they are, some people think that Beans is a possum, you don’t really know what anybody is and that’s what’s great. It’s so imaginative and everybody’s characters sort of looks like them but then at the same time looks nothing like them.

What was it like doing Gore’s process of acting out the entire movie on a soundstage?

Rango - Johnny Depp and Isla Fisher
Rango (Johnny Depp) and Beans (Isla Fisher) © 2011 Paramount Pictures

Isla: Traditionally when you shoot an animated movie you’re in a sound booth and you’re alone with a microphone and you try to find a voice without having a physicality to your character. You’re creating it from scratch.

You’re in the dark and the story is changing and they’re going to animate first and then you put your voice to it. Whereas this way, we got to act and then they put the [animation] to us.

What was so much fun about shooting Rango is that we were all in a room together and we were acting it like a play, so we had props and costumes and there was a lot of chemistry that goes with performing with each other and hopefully that infused the voices.

Sometimes I’d be doing a scene and I’d think, ‘Johnny Depp is walking like a lizard, and there’s Bill Nighy being a snake and slithering around me, and there’s Abigail Breslin, a 12-year-old with a shotgun.’ It was absurd, but I loved every minute of it.

I think the characters had humanity because we were interacting with each other, and so it felt more organic and real. What do you think, Abigail?

Rango - Abigail Breslin
Actress Abigail Breslin, who voices Priscilla, behind the scenes © 2011 Paramount Pictures

Abigail: When you’re in a booth, by yourself, it’s very isolating, and you don’t have anything to play off of except one take of one line. This was a lot more fun. Although I did wear a black wig and I got a really bad rash on my neck from it, so that was uncomfortable.

Isla: And you were carrying a gun, which was so weird to see her with a massive gun.

Abigail: It was so bizarre, because you don’t think that there are firearms in an animated movie.

Do you have a favorite scene in the movie?

Abigail: One of my favorite scenes I got to do was when Priscilla first meets Rango, they’re picking out each others flaws, which I think is ironic because everybody in the town is strange looking, so it’s not like they are odd.

Isla: Beans freezes every time she’s under any kind of pressure and when she comes to, she’s talking his hilarious lizard gibberish talk. And then towards the end she has a very sweet kiss underwater [with Rango] which was fun.

Would you like to do another animated movie?

Rango - Isla Fisher
Actress Isla Fisher, who voices Beans, behind the scenes © 2011 Paramount Pictures

Isla: I’m actually doing an animated movie now, The Rise of the Guardians, and I’m playing Tinkerbelle, which is a really different voice from Beans. And I’m really enjoying that, but I’m in an isolated booth.

Abigail: Yeah, I love animated movies, I’d love to do one again, for sure. But I liked doing it like this, and I don’t think that they do many animated movies like that. But I suppose I’d be in an isolated booth, too, [but that would be okay] if it was a cool movie. I’d still come completely in the character’s costume!


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.