Magic Carpet Ride

Johnny Depp brings his passion project to the Austin Film Festival

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp (Photo by Jana Birchum)

There are Q&A sessions and then there are Q&A sessions gone falling-down gonzo, which was the case following the Austin Film Festival's regional premiere of Johnny Depp's pet Hunter S. Thompson project, The Rum Diary. Thanks to the very blotto state of director Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I), it all ended up being considerably more entertaining than the film itself. Moderated, as much as possible, by a very amused Elvis Mitchell and the ever-droll Depp, Robinson was in fine form:

"Way back when, I had turned Hunter on to Withnail and How To Get Ahead in Advertising," Depp recalled. "And he lost his mind. He watched them over and over and over. He adored it, and obviously he related to it in a huge way. I really believe that for Hunter, watching Withnail for the first time, it was kind of like reliving his days of Fear and Loathing for the first time. That savage time in Vegas with Oscar Acosta ... he really felt his youth again."

Mitchell: "And too, relating to Robinson, the idea of trying to hold on to your youth as that sort of creeping insanity came into your life, fighting both sides of yourself at the same time."

Depp: "Oh, for sure. There was that side of Hunter that we all know, that we all read about from his words and from his insane situations. But there was another side of Hunter that was very moral and a complete Southern gentleman. So there's always that sort of tipping point between the two, you know? There was the chivalrous man and the savage, the maniac."

Bruce Robinson
Bruce Robinson (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Mitchell: "Bruce, I think the movie really holds as an emotional narrative, rather than a conventional one. Is that what you saw when you read the book?"

Robinson (apparently unaware of the microphone in his hand): "Oh my god, if you could know what a horrible state I'm in tonight ...."

Mitchell: "My question was that you seemed to respond to the emotional narrative with the film because it's first and foremost that in the book."

Robinson: "Yes, well, certainly for me, as an English person, there was a time many years ago, when in the midst of an enormous hangover, my flatmate threw a book at me and it was Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He said, 'Here's a guy who sort of does what you do.' And it was very phenomenal. Jesus Christ, I'm glad my wife is not here tonight."

And so it went, with Mitchell doing his best to keep the conversation moving forward and the director upright. Which, honestly, was completely apropos for a film with the word "rum" in its title. Thompson, certainly, would have approved.

The Rum Diary opens in Austin this Friday. See our review.

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