Johnny Depp pays tribute to Heath Ledger, Hunter Thompson
LOS ANGELES—In our latest chat with Johnny Depp, he revealed that an area in his Caribbean island was named after the late actor, Heath Ledger. We also talked about “The Rum Diary,” a film adaptation of the debut novel of another late friend of Johnny’s, Hunter S. Thompson.
Johnny found the manuscript of the unpublished novel while he was visiting Hunter, who is known as the creator of gonzo journalism. It took many years for the actor to bring Hunter’s novel to the big screen. It was inspired by the journalist’s experiences in Puerto Rico in the 1960s. Hunter shot and killed himself in 2005. Excerpts of our interview with Johnny:
Who from your acting family have visited your island?
Not many. After Heath Ledger passed into eternity, I thought that his family could use a bit of time away from the madness. There’s a place in the island that we’ve named after Heath.
Who else? Tim (Burton) has been down there a couple of times. We deciphered what “Alice in Wonderland” was going to be while we were sitting on a sand bar in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Does Johnny Depp have it all, as your “The Rum Diary” costar, Aaron Eckhart, said?
When you have two beautiful kids who are happy and healthy, on the right path and totally together, that in itself means you have it all. When you have a woman like Vanessa, and are able to do the things you want to do, you have it all. I couldn’t wish for more.
What do you attribute it all to?
It really boils down to just being incredibly lucky. I look at my kids and see Lily Rose at 12, my boy, Jack, at 9 and look over at Vanessa and realize that it’s almost 14 years that we’ve been together. It’s always beautiful, symmetrical and asymmetrical, poetic and funny.
Personally, how does it feel to have “The Rum Diary” finally finished?
It all started in Hunter’s basement, unearthing that manuscript. After all these years, there’s an amazing sense of accomplishment. I think he would have been very happy.
Can you talk about the fireworks farewell for Hunter?
Hunter designed his last wish in the 1970s. He wanted to be shot out of a cannon on his property. I think Hunter knew that I was probably the only one stupid enough to go through with it. It was a wonderful send-off, and it was exactly as he planned it, note for note.
How would you want your own farewell to be?
Just drop me in a vat of whiskey or something. Everybody can drink from it.
Can you describe the first time you met Hunter?
I went with my family and friends to Aspen, Colorado in December 1994. I ran into a guy whom I knew, and he said, “Would you like to meet Hunter?” I said, “Of course, just let me know.” He said, “Okay, 12:30 at the Woody Creek Tavern.”
At about one in the morning, the front doors burst open at the tavern. All I see are sparks. Then, I see people leaping out of the way, diving for cover. There was Hunter with a cattle prod and a Taser gun in his hand. He walked right up to me and stuck out his hand. He said, “How do you do? My name is Hunter.” I said, “Hi, I’m Johnny. Sit down.”
We sat and talked. Then, it was just instant connection. He invited me to his house that night. I made a comment about a beautiful nickel-plated 12-gauge shotgun that he had on the wall. He asked, “Would you like to fire it?” I said, “Sure.” It was about 2:30 in the morning. He said, “If you want to fire it, let’s build a couple of bombs.” So, we took propane tanks.
We built the bombs and went out in the backyard. I had the first crack at it, and I nailed it! It was an 80-feet fireball at three in the morning. I believe that was the moment when I passed the test.
What is your connection to Hunter’s world and his words?
I must have been 17 when I read Hunter’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” I thought that he had a unique voice. Then, I read all of his other books. What I loved about Hunter was his honesty.
I adored him as a big brother/best friend/mentor. It hasn’t stopped. I still have him.
I have been seduced by dough. For me, the seduction started with “Jump Street” in 1986. People started offering me movies where you kiss the girl, carry a gun, get in a fight, and things blow up. I figured, if I had taken the fast cars, money and all that stuff, it would have been over in a few years, because I’d just be like everybody else.
I thought, why not be patient? I swore I would only do what I felt was right for me! —Somehow, I’m still here.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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