Devoted followers of three-time best actor Oscar nominee Johnny Depp are undoubtedly familiar with his remarkable portrayal of Raoul Duke, the alter ego of Hunter S. Thompson, in the mind-bending dark comedy “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” This cinematic adaptation of Thompson’s novel, which shares the same title, remains one of Depp’s most exceptional performances. However, Depp’s involvement with his gonzo journalist friend extended beyond his portrayal of Raoul.
During an interview for Depp’s 2011 film “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” he revealed to the Radio Times that “The Rum Diary,” released in the same year, was a fulfillment of a promise he made to Thompson before the writer’s demise in 2005. With a humorous tone, Depp recounted that “The Rum Diary” was the one commitment he made to Thompson, aside from the whimsical idea of launching his ashes from a cannon, a befitting tribute to the counterculture luminary.
Thompson had penned a screenplay for “The Rum Diary,” based on a long-lost book he had begun writing at the tender age of 22 in 1959. Eventually, Thompson completed the novel, and it was published in 1999.
Recalling the moment he stumbled upon the manuscript in Thompson’s basement, Depp shared with the Radio Times, “I vividly remember unearthing the manuscript from a box. He had no idea where it was, and when I pulled it out, he was taken aback. We sat down and read it together at three in the morning, and it struck us both that we should undertake this project together. Unfortunately, Hunter couldn’t fulfill his end of the bargain. I suppose he had other obligations.”
Opening the book on The Rum Diary
With persistence, Johnny Depp succeeded in bringing “The Rum Diary” to fruition, enlisting the assistance of Bruce Robinson, an actor-turned-director renowned for his work in “Romeo & Juliet” and “Still Crazy.” Robinson collaborated with Thompson’s script, earning co-screenwriting credit for the final version of the film. In a manner akin to his portrayal of Raoul Duke in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” Depp embodied the character of Paul Kemp, an unbridled journalist, in “The Rum Diary.” Unlike the Las Vegas escapade, this Thompson-inspired adventure unfolded in the vibrant setting of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Throughout the production of “The Rum Diary,” Depp disclosed to the Radio Times that he and Robinson upheld a daily ritual. “Hunter would have his own chair right beside Bruce’s, with a script bearing his name and all the accoutrements—an assortment of Dunhill cigarettes, a bottle of his beloved Chivas, and an ice-filled tumbler,” shared Depp.
Beyond its undeniable connection to Thompson, “The Rum Diary” eerily foreshadowed the tumultuous relationship between Depp and his co-star, Amber Heard, who would later become his wife and then his ex-partner.
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