Fear and loathing with Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp is in character as the fictionalized version of Hunter S. Thompson, Paul Kemp, in “The Rum Diary.”

Johnny Depp began  working to bring Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Rum Diary” to the screen shortly after the manuscript — written by Thompson in the 1960s but not published until 1998 — was discovered in the author’s attic. In the film, a Thompson-like journalist (Depp) heads for Puerto Rico and becomes intrigued by the local booze and a local woman. With the film finally hitting theaters, Depp shares with Metro memories of his close friendship with the late author.

Meeting Hunter for the first time

“It was around Christmas time of 1994. I was in Aspen, and this friend of mine said, ‘You should come to the Woody Creek Tavern. I’ll have Hunter come down if you want to meet him.’ Somewhere around midnight the front door opened and all I could see initially were sparks — just sparks shooting everywhere, and then people jumping for cover. You could hear this sort of muffled, ‘Out of my way, you bastards!’ The sea parted, and the sparks stopped and he arrived right in front of me, and then this Southern gentleman came over and said, ‘My name’s Hunter, how do you do?’ And that was it. From that second on, if we were apart we were on the phone constantly. It was a love affair, a major love affair that hung around until he made his exit.”
 
Keeping up with the King of Gonzo Journalism

“We shared the same sense of adventure. One of the things I’ll cherish all my life is that whenever Hunter felt the need to wander out and explore, he’d call me. He’d say, ‘Colonel’ — he used to call me Colonel, Col. Depp — ‘Colonel, I need you in Havana in a week.’ I was in the middle of a film in England. I said, ‘I think I could probably work it out, all right.’ And then you find yourself on a plane to Havana.”

Learning of Hunter’s suicide

“If you really spent time with him and you knew how he … dictated the way he was going to live his life, you knew he wasn’t going to be the guy who just sort of slipped off the chair and went away. You knew it was going to be self-inflicted.”

On the road with Hunter

“We were on a book tour, and he wanted me to go on the road with him as his road manager and as his head of security. He would refer to me as Ray, his head of security. And they were like, ‘That’s Johnny Depp.’ And he’d go, ‘No! His name is Ray.’ We ended up in San Francisco because his back went out on him on the tour. I was essentially locked in a hotel room with him, in a suite with Hunter — just me and him for five straight days. And so all the stuff you read about in ‘Fear and Loathing’ with the grapefruits and saving the shrimp cocktails, all that stuff? All true. Whatever book he was writing, you’re living in it.”


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