For every big budget Pirates Of The Caribbean-style blockbuster, Johnny Depp mixes it with a smaller movie that’s close to his heart.
The Rum Diary, adapted from Hunter S Thompson’s debut novel, holds a special place in Depp’s heart because he was close friends with the author and eccentric journalist before his suicide in 2005.
“Johnny probably knew Hunter better than anyone else alive,” acknowledges the film’s director Bruce Robinson.
His intimate connection to the film is probably the reason why Depp – who stars in and co-produces the film – is giving rare one-to-one interviews.
“This whole thing commenced around 1997 with me and Hunter, and here we are in 2011 and it’s actually happening.”
Depp has been the driving force behind the film, since his discovery of the book “by accident”.
“We were in Hunter’s house and there were these endless boxes of stuff. I started pulling things out and stumbled upon The Rum Diary,” he recalls.
“We started reading it and I told him to publish it. Within about 20 minutes we were already talking about the movie rights and how we should produce this film together.”
Tragically, that wasn’t to happen with Thompson’s passing – but Depp ensured his posthumous presence was felt constantly on set.
“One of my last efforts to salute the man was to continue in our venture, forcing him – even in death – to be a producer,” he says, giving a little chuckle.
A chair with Thompson’s name on it was on set each day, along with a script cover, ashtray, cigarettes, empty glass and a bottle of Chivas Regal whisky.
“We had to utilise all these elements to recognise Hunter, to salute him,” he explains. “Bruce and I would arrive on set every morning, pour the glass full with Chivas Regal, dunk our fingers in, maybe take a sip and get on with the day – just to make sure Hunter was there.
“And he was – every day, every second, every moment – for us.”
The release of The Rum Diary marks the fulfilment of Thompson’s final two wishes. One was to shoot his cremated ashes out of a cannon.
“His other wish was to get The Rum Diary made and to get it out there.
“We’ve done that now and I feel all my commitments to Hunter are done,” added Depp.