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by Jenny Kalish FILM


The Rum Diary T


The Story Behind


HE LATE AMERICAN “GONZO” author Hunter S. Thompson was a man of many complexities. Some remember him best as Raoul Duke, the self-parodying and drug-crazed


protagonist of his 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. But to those who have delved deeper into his impressive and wide-ranging collection of literary and journalistic works, he was a revolutionary writer and a great American hero.


In 1998, Thompson published The Rum Diary, a novel he wrote in 1960 when he was a


22-year-old journalist living and working in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The semi-autobiographical story centers on journalist Paul Kemp, an uprooted New Yorker working as a reporter for a deteriorating newspaper in San Juan. Also in 1998, director Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian) adapted Thompson’s novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into a film, starring Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke. Though the film flopped in theaters, Depp’s embodiment of Thompson in Duke’s character was spot on, and it later became a cult classic. In preparation for his role, Depp spent countless hours with Thompson; following him


everywhere for months and eventually living with him at Thompson’s home at Owl Farm in Woody Creek, Colo. Depp and Thompson became bonded and remained close friends until Thompson’s suicide


in 2005. The two were so close, in fact, that Depp funded Thompson’s funeral – at which Thompson’s ashes were fired from a fist-shaped cannon of his own design, a death plan he cared so deeply about he included it into his will. Now in a post-Thompson world, Depp will attempt to fill Thompson’s shoes for the second


time, this time as the lead role and producer of the film adaptation of The Rum Diary. The film opened in theaters all over the country Oct. 28. Set in the late 1950s, the story follows American writer Paul Kemp (Depp) in his journey of


journalism and debauchery in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The plot is colored with sexual escapades, drunken theatrics and drug-induced hysterias that will especially be appreciated by those with questionable moral values. Actress Amber Heard, 25,


co-stars as Kemp’s seductive love interest, Chenault, along- side actors Aaron Eckhart and Richard Jenkins. After all, as any Gonzo fan knows, it’s not a true Thompson story without sex, drugs and alcohol thrown into the mix. The Rum Diary was filmed


on location in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at an estimated cost of $45 million. Bruce Robinson directed the film, whose previ- ous credits include smaller films such as Jennifer Eight, and Withnail & I.


18 | REVUEMM.COM | NOVEMBER 2011 While Robinson is not as well known as Gilliam, Depp’s far-reaching hand in the production


of the film will ensure Thompson’s essence will be captured. Although the character Paul Kemp was loosely based on Thompson’s actual experiences


in San Juan as a young freelance reporter, Kemp absorbed the culture in a way that was also reminiscent of Hemingway’s booze-soaked experiences in Havana. In both cases, they were surrounded by degenerates, had inescapable problems with drugs and alcohol, and a lingering theme of both optimism and impending doom. Still, despite the countless drugs Thompson abused over the years, he always managed to


eloquently verbalize his experiences in a way that both educated his readers and romanticized his weird and adventurous lifestyle. It’s no question he often mixed fact with fantasy, but he would nonetheless inspire his readers with his unconventional and somewhat perverse interpretations of the truth. But by putting himself into his stories as the self-proclaimed “Doctor of Gonzo journalism,”


he created a drug-crazed caricature of himself that he didn’t necessarily intend to create. Especially after Fear and Loathing was made into a film, fans and readers of Thompson’s work expected a heavy dose of insanity to envelop everything that followed. The beauty of The Rum Diary, however, is that it was written before Gonzo journalism even


GIOVANNI RIBISI AS MOBERG IN THE RUM DIARY. PHOTO: PETER MOUNTAIN. COURTESY OF FILMDISTRICT AND GK FILMS.


existed. He was merely a young journalist, full of hubris, talent and yes, lots and lots of rum. The book and film gives you a chance to see Thompson’s writing style at its most organic form. It’s an opportunity that was surely appreciated by his readers. n


SCHEDULE |SIGHTS


SOUNDS | SCENE


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