'I am Johnny Depp's Hannibal Lecter', claims Australian deputy PM after actor's 'inbred with tomato' jibe
The Australian politician locked in a bizarre war of words with Johnny Depp has boasted that he got into the Hollywood star's head like fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter.
Barnaby Joyce was hitting back after Depp quipped that the ruddy-faced deputy prime minister appeared to be "inbred with a tomato".
The exchange on Wednesday is the latest salvo in the dispute which began a year ago when Mr Joyce, who is also agriculture minister, threatened to have Depp's pet dogs, Boo and Pistol, put down.
The 52-year-old actor's wife Amber Heard pleaded guilty in a court last month to falsifying documents to conceal the pets when she arrived by private jet to join her husband on the set of the fifth film in the Pirates Of The Caribbean series.
Depp ridiculed Mr Joyce this week on US television, telling talk show host Jimmy Kimmel: "He looks somehow inbred with a tomato.
"It's not a criticism. No, I was a little worried. He might explode."
Mr Joyce replied by thanking Depp for the publicity he gave Australia's tough biosecurity laws through the case that was widely lampooned as a "war on terrier".
The minister, who is campaigning ahead of July 2 elections, said he had moved on from his dispute with Depp.
"I'm inside his head, I'm pulling little strings and pulling little levers. Long after I've forgotten about Mr Depp, he's remembering me," he told reporters in his home town of Tamworth.
"I'm turning into his Hannibal Lecter," he added, referring to the brilliant but dangerously manipulative character best known from the Academy Award-winning film Silence Of The Lambs.
Depp and Heard recorded a 40-second videotaped apology as part of a deal with prosecutors that allowed Heard to avoid a conviction.
The couple's delivery in the video was oddly wooden, and Mr Joyce said he could have directed it better himself, and that it looked like Depp was auditioning for The Godfather.
Depp himself told Kimmel he had not watched the video: "No, because I didn't want to kill myself."
The actor had poked fun at the quarantine drama during a press conference in Venice last year where he was asked if he planned to take the dogs for a gondola ride.
"No," he replied. "I killed my dogs and ate them, under direct orders from some kind of, I don't know, sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia."