The first still from forthcoming film The Rum Diary has just hit the Internet, and it’s every bit as perfect as I’d hoped it would be. Johnny Depp is positively dreamy as Paul Kemp, the protagonist of the early Hunter S. Thompson novel on which the movie is based, and Amber Heard looks pretty much just like I pictured Chenault when I read the book, right down to her cute little upturned nose.
The Rum Diary follows the adventures of a young journalist working at a newspaper in San Juan in the late 1950′s, when the place was rapidly being opened up to American commercial interests but still had an “untamed” element to it. It was written in 1968 but wasn’t published until 1998, at which point it functioned like a newly unearthed time capsule. Reading about that doomed train wreck of a newspaper probably shouldn’t have made me want to disguise myself as a dude (because sexism) and go work there circa 1958, but it totally did. They drank all day, barely did any work, ate lobsters straight out of the ocean, and were allowed to hit each other!
HST purists might complain that Johnny Depp, stripped of the eccentric costumes he wore in Fear and Loathing, is way too handsome to play this part. On the flip side, he’s also too old. To which I retort: Paul Kemp is not Hunter S. Thompson. We don’t really get a sense of how hot he is in the book (it’s narrated by Kemp and it would be way out of character for him to talk about his own chiseled abs), but as a projection of certain aspects of Thompson’s psyche, it’s not entirely unrealistic that he’d look like Johnny Depp. The Good Doctor wasn’t lacking in self-esteem.
As for his age, Depp certainly couldn’t pass for a man in his twenties, but I don’t see why they can’t make Paul Kemp a little bit older in the film. Johnny Depp was good friends with HST and understands his work better than 99% his actor colleagues, I’m willing to bet. And the book’s omnipresent theme of “how does one keep from getting old and washed up?” might resonate even better with an older Kemp. Also: look at him. The guy can do no wrong.
I, for one, can’t fucking wait to see this adaptation. Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas is one of those rare films that doesn’t suck compared to the book, and I have a hunch this will be, too. And won’t it be nice to see Johnny Depp play an actual human being instead of an absurdly whimsical Goth story book character? Yes, yes it will.