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Fresh out of the Air Force and a stint as a copy boy at Time Magazine, future Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson moved down to San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1960, briefly worked at the soon-to-fold sporting magazine El Sportivo, and unsuccessfully pursued a job at The San Juan Star.
The people he met and the experiences he had in Puerto Rico inspired him to write ‘The Rum Diary’, which remained unpublished for decades. In the 1990s, Johnny Depp, Thompson’s close friend, accidentally discovered the manuscript for ‘The Rum Diary’ while visiting Thompson’s house in Woody Creek.
That same night they decided to publish the novel and adapt it into a film. Bruce Robinson, the director of ‘Withnail and I’, was brought out of retirement by Depp to write the script as well as direct the film. Their version of ‘The Rum Diary’ is both a labor of love and a clear-eyed tribute to Thompson.
“I felt Hunter with me throughout the shoot,” says Depp in the new movie’s production notes. “It was great to be close to him again, in that sense; it was great to have him around me. I knew what he would say in every circumstance. I just knew, because I knew him very well. If he’d seen the finished film, he’d be whooping.
He’d be making those Hunter noises that anyone close to Hunter knew. They meant, ‘Yes man, we’ve done it! Fantastic!’ He would have been celebrating. Ultimately, the film is a celebration of Hunter, his language and his discovery of his voice. He’d be super happy, I’m sure.”
Based on the early novel by Hunter S. Thompson, ‘The Rum Diary’ tells the increasingly unhinged story of itinerant journalist Paul Kemp, played by Johnny Depp. Tiring of the noise and madness of New York and the crushing conventions of late Eisenhower-era America, Kemp travels to the pristine island of Puerto Rico to write for a local newspaper, The San Juan Star, run by downtrodden editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins).
Adopting the rum-soaked life of the island, Paul soon becomes obsessed with Chenault, played by an enchanting Amber Heard, the wildly attractive Connecticut-born fiancée of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). Sanderson, a businessman involved in shady property development deals, is one of a growing number of American entrepreneurs who are determined to convert Puerto Rico into a capitalist paradise in service of the wealthy.
When Kemp is recruited by Sanderson to write favorably about his latest unsavory scheme, the journalist is presented with a choice: to use his words for the corrupt businessmen’s financial benefit, or use them to take the bastards down. The Academy Award nominated writer and director Bruce Robinson directs from his screenplay based on the original novel by Thompson.
‘The Rum Diary’ represents the debut film of Infinitum Nihil, the production company headed by Johnny Depp and Christi Dembrowski, together with Academy Award Winner Graham King’s production company GK Films. The film is being produced by Johnny Depp, Christi Dembrowski, Anthony Rhulen, Robert Kravis, and Graham King.
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