Joined: 10 November 2010
Joined: 10 November 2010
Image Credit: Peter Mountain
Johnny Depp remembers the day he first met Hunter S. Thompson. He was waiting at the back of a tavern when the author and journalist burst in, ordering people out of his way. "I just saw sparks, literally sparks," Depp said of their first encounter. "In his left hand he had a three-foot cattle prod, and in his right hand a tazer."
The memory was one of many shared Monday night by Johnny Depp and director Bruce Robinson at a Columbia University panel honoring the life and legacy of Thompson before a special screening of Depp's upcoming film, The Rum Diary. In the film adapted from a novel by Thompson Depp plays Paul Kemp, a semi-autobiographical stand-in for Thompson who works as a young freelance journalist in Puerto Rico.
Rum Diary marks the second time Depp has portrayed Thompson he first played the author in 1998's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. At Monday's panel, Depp spoke of the time he spent living in Thompson's basement preparing for the Fear and Loathing role and the close bond that formed between the two men. Depp, who Thompson referred to as "Colonel," said from that first bar room encounter until the writer's death in 2005, the pair were almost inseparable.
Depp played a pivotal role in the publication of The Rum Diary and its transition to the big screen. He said one night, while living in Thompson's basement, the two were going through old files in the "war room" where Thompson kept years of finished and unfinished writings and correspondence. They were sitting cross-legged on the floor "like a couple of teenagers" when Depp came across a box containing the manuscript for The Rum Diary, which Thompson had written decades earlier. It had been rejected for publication when it was first written but with Depp's help and encouragement and idea to start "waving whiskey bottles at people with thick wallets," the novel was published with a film adaptation in the works.
Monday's panel also included Thompson's literary executor Douglas Brinkley, Thompson's childhood friend and former editor of Rolling Stone Porter Bibb, and documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney. One interesting tidbit revealed by the panel: Brinkley said that while the book was being published, Thompson was so concerned with people tampering with his work that he wrote "contaminated with semen" on each galley copy to dissuade people from touching the unfinished novel.
Thompson's unflinching passion for his words was a recurring topic of conversation for the panel, as was the societal anger that permeated his work. Bibb described as a "voice of ink and rage," a line lifted from The Rum Diary. During one of the film's scenes, an angry Paul Kemp rants about Richard Nixon's lies a real life anger that Thompson held and, during the panel, Depp remarked about the "bubbling oozing rage" that Thompson experienced during the Bush era and speculated on how the author would feel if he could see the state of American affairs today. "He'd be like a whirling dervish," Depp said.
Brinkley described Thompson who became renowned for "Gonzo" journalism, a style so immersive that the writer becomes a character in the story as an outlaw, an artist and a revenge journalist. "He didn't follow any school of thought," Brinkley said.
In The Rum Diary, Thompson or, more specifically, his fictional alter ego Paul Kemp relocates to Puerto Rico for work at a nearly-bankrupt newspaper and has to outrun the local authorities after a spout of drunken escapades and spars with a local shady businessman. The panelists agreed that in real life, Thompson consumed as much alcohol as his fictional depictions suggest, and moderator Nicholas Lemann remarked that the novel and film are as "soaked and saturated in journalism as [they are] soaked and saturated in rum."
When the subject of Thompson's 2005 suicide came up, Depp said he was devastated but not surprised. "You always kind of knew that he was not the kind of guy that was going to melt into a bowl of clam chowder," Depp said.
Immediately after his death, Depp went about making sure that Thompson's last wish was realized: That his ashes would be shot out of a canon taller than the Statue of Liberty. Brinkley said it was important for Thompson to go out on his own terms. He recalled a conversation where Thompson said, "I'm gonna have Nurse Ratched taking care of me." Still, fulfilling his wishes took a substantial effort. "The zoning laws to blast someone's ashes out of the sky are fierce," Brinkley said, laughing.
Even though Thompson did not live to see Rum Diary adapted for the big screen, his presence was felt on the set. Robinson said that each morning a tumbler of ice and a drink was placed by a chair with Thompson's name on it and each morning he and Depp would ritualistically rub scotch behind their ears "like fing perfume" for good luck.
For the final question of the panel, Lemann asked Depp if he would ever consider playing Thompson for a third time. "Oh yeah," Depp said. "I wake up with the bas***d. He's always there."
Joined: 30 August 2011
Premiere of Rum Diary in New York
Joined: 10 November 2010
Joined: 30 August 2011
Joined: 12 September 2011
Joined: 10 November 2010
Joined: 25 March 2011
A Minute With: Johnny Depp and his 'Rum Diary'
Due in U.S. theaters on Friday, it is based on his friend Hunter S. Thompson's book of the same name.
After portraying a version of Thompson in the 1998 film "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," Depp again becomes the gonzo journalist's alter ego in "Rum Diary," playing the fictional journalist Paul Kemp in Thompson's pre-gonzo years working in Puerto Rico.
The film, set in 1960s, tells the story of Kemp, an American journalist who travels to the Caribbean island to write for a local newspaper. While enjoying a rum-filled lifestyle, he falls for the attractive fiancee (Amber Heard) of a shady businessman (Aaron Eckhart).
Depp spoke to Reuters about Thompson, who committed suicide in 2005, his own connection to the Caribbean and his next role as Tonto in "The Lone Ranger."
Q: You and Hunter were such good friends. Whose idea was it to turn "The Rum Diary" into a movie?
A: "It was his idea to produce it as a film. I found the manuscript (in his home). We were reading it, sitting cross-legged on the floor and he said, 'We have to make this into a film and produce it together.' I said 'Sure,' never knowing that we would full-on go through with it."
Q: What was the next step?
A: "Hunter and I had all these horrendous meetings. We weren't accustomed to doing a song-and-dance to try and drum up money. We'd be sitting with bottles of Chivas (Scotch whisky) and these (potential financiers) would arrive completely shocked and confused."
Q: How did you keep Hunter's spirit alive on the set?
A: "I wanted Hunter's spirit to permeate (the set) and I wanted everybody to know that Hunter was there. We had his chair with his name on it. We had his script with his name on it. We had a bottle of Chivas with a high ball glass, tumbler filled with ice. We had his cigarettes, his cigarette filters, his ashtray ..."
Q: Did you do anything with them?
A: "(Director) Bruce (Robinson) and I would dip into the Chivas and put it behind our ears so we had Hunter with us. Two weeks in, everyone was dipping."
Q: Does playing Hunter come naturally to you?
A: "Yeah, almost too naturally!"
Q: How did you and Hunter first meet and bond?
A: "I first met him when he walked into the Woody Creek Tavern waving a giant cattle prod and a Taser gun ... He invited me back to his place, and I was admiring a nickel plated shotgun on his wall, 12 gauge. He says, 'Wanna shoot it?'
Q: Did you?
A: "Well, It was about 2:30 in the morning and then he said, 'Let's build a bomb!' So we built bombs out of propane tanks with nitroglycerin, took it out in the backyard and I shot it. It exploded into, like, an 80-foot (24.3 meters) fireball.
"I think that was kind of my initiation. Had I potentially flubbed the shooting of the bomb, it might have been a different story. But I hit it dead on, square on and he was so happy. (laughs) From that moment on, it was nonstop."
Q: You shot 'Rum Diary' and the 'Pirates' films in various Caribbean locations, and now you have your own island there too. Do you feel a special connection to the Caribbean?
A: "I do. It's one of the most welcoming places in the world I've been to. The ultimate irony is that I was given an opportunity to do a pirate movie back in 2003 that even Disney thought was gonna crap out. That was the thing that allowed me to buy my dream, to buy the island -- a pirate movie!"
Q: Which changed everything for you on many levels.
A: "It's nuts. It's really nuts. I took a left when everybody said, 'take a right' and things happened somehow. I really didn't instigate any of it. It's pretty wild."
Q: Now you're about to play Tonto in "The Lone Ranger."
A: "I know the character pretty well so far. The main thing with Tonto is the fact that 60 plus years in Hollywood, the Indians have been treated like second and third class citizens. And I can't abide. So Tonto has to take the bull by the horns, in a way. But in his own way, a special way, and not the very obvious way."
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patricia Reaney)
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