By: John M. Wohlgemuth
After two failed launches, the film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel “The Rum Diary” is finally nearing its October 28th release date. The booze soaked story, which was written by Thompson in the 1960’s and is his 2nd novel preceded only by the currently unpublished “Prince Jellyfish,” details the bizarre and alcoholic journey of an American journalist, Paul Kemp, as he travels to Puerto Rico to work for a run-down newspaper. The story bears a similarity to Thompson’s own adventures in Puerto Rico as a young man.
The first attempt to render the story into film came in 2000, while Thompson was still alive, and Johnny Depp and Nick Nolte were set to star. This proved to be a disaster and Thompson himself denounced the project and even sent a letter to a woman involved with production stating that he was in a mood to chop her “fucking hands off.” The first attempt at the film crumbled during development. The second attempt followed a couple years later and was set to star Josh Hartnett and Benecio Del Toro, but this project also crashed and burned.
It wasn’t until producer Graham King acquired the rights to the book and launched another attempt to create a cinematic depiction of the rum-drenched story that it finally became successful. Johnny Depp picked up the project under his production company Infinitum Nihil and was set to star alongside Amber Heard, Giovanni Ribissi, Aaron Eckhart and Richard Jenkins among many others. The successful production of the film was not entirely without incident however, and I suppose that is to be expected of any adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s work. He wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Director Bruce Robinson and Johnny Depp were on a plane to Los Angeles, returning from Mexico where they were scouting locations for The Rum Diary, when the plane lost power to both engines, and everything electrical on the flight went dead. The plane began to drop. Depp and Robinson, both drunk on wine, first peered silently out the window as the seriousness of the situation sank in, and then, if their account is to be believed, they looked at each other and burst into hysterical laughter. This maniacal laughter continued for two or three minutes as the plane plummeted towards the water. Suddenly, the power came back on, and the plane stabilized.
Robinson, who had been about 6 years sober claims that he began drinking again because of “The Rum Diary.” It is the first movie he has directed since the 1992’s “Jennifer 8,” which bombed so hard that Robinson swore to never make another Hollywood film. Well… he’s back, and so is Depp to once again star in an adaptation of his late great friend Hunter S. Thompson, who killed himself in his kitchen in 2005. “The Rum Diary” is set to be released October 28th.
Watch the official trailer here: