When Johnny Depp was creating his now-iconic Capt. Jack Sparrow persona for "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," one of the many distinctive characteristics he concocted was the oft-inebriated buccaneer's frantic run whenever he was in danger of being captured.

The actor says his depiction of flailing arms, arched back and swaying gait was inspired by footage of a lizard running across water.

"I've always had an affinity for lizards and have always felt close to them," says Depp, who received an Oscar nomination for his comical performance in the 2003 film. "I feel somewhat reptilian myself at times."

"Pirates" director Gore Verbinski approved of Depp's idea and encouraged him to "get in touch with the lizard" whenever a scene called for Sparrow to escape in three successive - and successful - movies.

The actor, 47, suspects his running lizard interpretation actually inspired Verbinski to create the newest unlikely hero he plays in the animated Western "Rango," which opens Friday. "When he actually called me and said, 'I want you to play a lizard,' " Depp said, "I thought, 'Well, I'm halfway there.' "

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