“The Rum Diary” official trailer
Ready to test your knowledge of Rum Diary trivia?
1. The Book: Faux followers of the pioneer of experiential journalism expressed initial enthusiasm for publishing “The Rum Diary”, Thompson’s long-forgotten diatribe about Eisenhower Era decadence in San Juan, Puerto Rico. But Johnny Depp is the one who actually helped get it in print in 1998. And when Depp wanted to make it into a movie, he persevered when others grew faint of heart, and fell by the wayside.
Where are Benicio del Toro, Josh Hartnett, Brad Pitt, Nick Nolte, Scarlett Johansson or Keira Knightley? Each of whom at one point or another promised Depp they would help him bring the novel to the Silver Screen.
2. The Movie: The movie was supposed to go into production by 2004. Ooops. Deadline blown. Along with Thompson’s mind in 2005. Sixteen years after Depp re-discovered Thompson’s unpublished 1961 manuscript, while he was living in Thompson’s Colorado retreat to get in character for “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas,” Depp is the Last Man Standing with this project. If you like the movie, “The Rum Diary,” thank Depp.
3. The Location: Puerto Rico, for once, gets to play itself. The movie really was filmed in and around Old San Juan. Some of the locales, despite being pimped to their late 1950s heyday, may look familiar to movie-goers. That’s because San Juan has also been used in recent movies such as “The Losers” and “Fast Five” (not to mention Depp’s own “Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides“). In each of those films, however, San Juan was supposed to pass for places like Miami and Rio de Janeiro. “Fast Five,” by the way, was still filming when cast and crew of “The Rum Diary” showed up to roll their cameras. Vin Diesel, meet Johnny Depp!
4. The Booze: Not surprisingly, considered its title, “The Rum Diary” features plenty of Puerto Rico’s most famous beverage. Not all of the depictions in the movie were merely “acting” drunk. Director Bruce Robinson, a recovering alcoholic, apparently fell in with the crowd – and fell off the wagon – during the filming. He does, however, say that since filming wrapped he has returned to the land of the lucid. Depp has long admired Robinson’s work, and unsuccessfully tried to get him to direct “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.” This is Robinson’s first feature film direction in 19 years.
5. The Babes: Amber Heard does a mean Scarlett Johansson imitation, doesn’t she? Heard said she won the part over Johansson (she doesn’t say how) and Keira Knightley. Heard, 25, is yet another blonde bombshell from Austin, Texas. She appeared on the popular gearhead television show on the BBC, “Top Gear“, prior to the movie’s opening. She surprised the hosts by revealing she is a muscle car lover, lead-foot driver, country/western line dancer and aficionada of large-bore weapons. According to the tabloids she’s also an atheist, fashion model and a switch-hitter.
6. The Script: The script takes liberties with the book. Heard’s character Chenault, in the book, is the girlfriend of a guy named Yeamon – who doesn’t even appear in the movie. Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) is a more complex character in the book – and girlfriend-less.
The debauched Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi), in the movie, is probably a more accurate depiction of the degenerate that the San Juan-era Thompson was.
7. The Truth: Depp’s character, Paul Kemp, is more or less based on the author Thompson – albeit a little more fresh-faced in the film’s beginning, and looking for personal redemption in its end, than the sociopathic Thompson was at any time in his San Juan sojourn; the book is loosely based on Thompson’s experiences not only as a struggling free-lance writer in San Juan, but also earlier in his journalism career. The San Juan Star, btw, is “The Daily News” in the book; the Star was a relatively new publication in 1960 (having been founded just a year earlier); it was a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper that continued publication until 2008.
Thompson BS-ed his way into a job at a U.S. paper, not any San Juan paper. In fact, in real life, Thompson did not get a job at The Star. An editor there refused to hire him; but, that editor actually ended up working for Thompson. While writing the book, Thompson was living in Orange County, New York, working as a reporter for a local paper; he was fired (btw) for feloniously assaulting the office candy machine.
8. The Type-Cast: Yes, it is well known that Depp has starred in three Disney films as Capt. Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean series (he has another sequel in the works). It is less well known that Depp has now appeared twice as characters based on Thompson. Can you name another property in which Depp has had a recurring role? How about SpongeBob SquarePants?
9. The Developers: The black hats in “The Rum Diary” are worn by the developers who cast their greedy glances toward the prime real estate occupied by San Juan’s desperately poor.
If you’ve been to San Juan recently, you’ll know that poverty survives – but the developers won.
October 26, 2011