SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Wednesday billed himself as Hollywood star Johnny Depp's Hannibal Lecter, playing mind games in his head and escalating a "war on terrier".
The sparring began with the illegal entry of Depp's two Yorkshire terriers into Australia last year when the actor was filming the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, breaching the country's tight biosecurity laws.
Depp's wife, actress Amber Heard, was convicted in April of falsifying travel documents to sneak the dogs into the country on a private jet and was given a suspended fine of A$1,000 ($720).
A videoed deadpan apology by Depp and Heard for the offense, dubbed "terriergate" by the media, went viral.
Depp kicked off the latest round in the war of words when he appeared on the U.S. Jimmy Kimmel Live! chat show on Tuesday, describing Joyce as someone who "looks somehow like inbred with a tomato".
"It's not a criticism. I was a little worried he might explode," said Depp.
Joyce, who had threatened pets Pistol and Boo with euthanasia, fired back on Wednesday, comparing himself to the fictional forensic psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer who has graced both the big and small screen.
"I'm turning into Johnny Depp's Hannibal Lecter, I'm inside his head, I'm pulling strings and levers," Joyce told reporters in Australia. "Long after I've forgotten Mr Depp, he is remembering me."
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Jane Wardell and Nick Macfie