Johnny Depp has been working to bring Hunter S. Thompson’s the Rum Diary to the screen since shortly after the two of them discovered the manuscript for the book in Thompson’s attic.
With the film finally hitting theatres, Depp shares with Metro, in his own words, some of his 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.”
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. So he’d say, ‘I’d like you to meet Ray, my head of security.’ And they were like, ‘That’s Johnny Depp.’ And he’d go, ‘No! His name is Ray.’ And he just stayed with that. We ended up in San Francisco because his back went out on him on the tour. So 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.
Learning of Hunter’s suicide
“I was here, in Los Angeles. If you knew Hunter — if you really spent time with him and you knew how he negotiated life and 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. I wasn’t particularly shocked, because you knew it would happen one day. But then you start cursing the bastard, thinking, Come on, man. One last phone call? Maybe some hideous practical joke before you do it? But he did actually ultimately have the best practical joke of all, because his last wish was to be blown out of a giant cannon in his back yard. Now, there are no giant cannons of that size. He wanted 150 feet of cannon, and then I found out that the Statue of Liberty was 151 feet tall, and I thought he’d really hate me if it were any smaller than the Statue of Liberty. So we changed the plans and we built it up to 153 feet tall. We broke the records then. The great joke is that we were all forced to focus on something else as opposed to focusing on the loss of a great, great friend. Now it was a question of how do we shoot the bastard into the stratosphere legally and get away with it?”