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The Rum Diary (film)

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The Rum Diary (film)

The Rum Diary
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bruce Robinson
Produced by Johnny Depp
Graham King
Christi Dembrowski
Anthony Rhulen
Robert Kravis
Tim Headington
Written by Bruce Robinson
Based on The Rum Diary 
by Hunter S. Thompson
Starring Johnny Depp
Aaron Eckhart
Michael Rispoli
Amber Heard
Richard Jenkins
Giovanni Ribisi
Music by Christopher Young
Cinematography Dariusz Wolski
Edited by Carol Littleton
Distributed by FilmDistrict (US)[1]
Release dates
  • October 13, 2011 (2011-10-13) (Los Angeles premiere)
  • October 28, 2011 (2011-10-28) (United States)
Running time 120 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language Urdu
Budget $45 million[3][4]
Box office $23.9 million[3]

The Rum Diary is a 2011 American film based on the novel of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson. The film was written and directed by Bruce Robinson and stars Johnny Depp. Filming began in Puerto Rico in March 2009. It was released on October 28, 2011.[5]


Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) is an author who hasn't been able to sell a book. He gets a job at a newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There, he meets Sala (Michael Rispoli), who gets him acclimated and tells him he thinks the newspaper will fold soon. Kemp checks into a hotel and while idling about on a boat in the sea, meets Chenault (Amber Heard), who is skinny-dipping while avoiding a Union Carbide party. Kemp is immediately smitten with her.

Kemp and Sala immediately go on a drinking binge, which earns Kemp the enmity of his editor, Lotterman (Richard Jenkins). Kemp also meets Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi), a deadbeat reporter who can't be fired. While waiting for an interview, Kemp meets Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), a freelance realtor, who offers him a job writing ads for his latest venture. Sanderson is engaged to Chenault, who pretends not to know Kemp.

Later, Kemp moves in with Sala, who also rooms with Moburg. Kemp begins to see the poverty of San Juan, but Lotterman doesn't want him to write about it, as it's bad for tourism. Moburg returns with leftover filters from a rum plant; they contain high-proof alcohol. Moburg has been fired, and rants about killing Lotterman.

Kemp visits Sanderson and spies him making love to Chenault. He meets Zimburger (Bill Smitrovich) and Segarra (Amaury Nolasco), who want him to help with a real estate scam. Later, Sala and Kemp go to a restaurant and berate the owner for refusing them service; Kemp senses that the owner wants to kill them, and he and Sala beat a hasty retreat, pursued by angry locals. The police arrive and break up the fight, then throw Sala and Kemp in jail. Sanderson bails them out.

The next day, Kemp meets with Sanderson's crew, who tell him that the US military is relinquishing the lease on some prime real estate, and is asked to pick up Chenault from her house. Kemp and Chenault share a moment, but resist temptation.

Zimburger takes Kemp and Sala to see the island property, then they head to St. Thomas for Carnival. Kemp finds Chenault, and they wind up on Sanderson's boat. Sanderson berates Kemp for involving Sala in the deal. At night, they go to a club, and a drunk Chenault dances with local men to provoke Sanderson, with whom she has been fighting. The black owners of the bar beat up Sanderson and throw Kemp out of the club. Chenault is left behind at the bar, but where she ends up is not known.

The next day, Chenault is gone, and Sanderson tells Kemp that their business arrangement is over. When Sala and Kemp return home, Moburg tells them that Lotterman has left and that the paper will go out of business. He also sells them hallucinogens, which they take. Kemp has an epiphany while under the influence, and resolves to write an exposé on Sanderson's shady deals.

Lotterman returns, but won't publish Kemp's story. Chenault shows up at Kemp's place, after Sanderson disowns her. Out of spite, Sanderson withdraws his bail, meaning that Kemp and Sala are now wanted by the police. Moburg also tells them that Lotterman has closed the paper. Kemp decides to print a last issue, telling the truth about Lotterman and Sanderson, as well as the stories Lotterman declined.

To make money to print the last edition, Kemp, Sala and Moburg place a big cockfighting bet. They visit Papa Nebo (Karimah Westbrook), Moburg's hermaphrodite witch doctor, to lay a blessing on Sala's prize cockerel. They win, but return to the office to find that the printing presses have been confiscated.

Kemp continues his quest, leaving Puerto Rico on a sailboat. The end credits explain that Kemp makes it back to New York, marries Chenault, and becomes a successful journalist, having finally found his voice as a writer.



Johnny Depp in November 2011, at a premiere of the film in Paris

Hunter S. Thompson wrote the novel The Rum Diary in 1961, but it was not published until 1998.[9] The independent production companies Shooting Gallery and SPi Films sought to adapt the novel into a film in 2000, and Johnny Depp was signed to star and to serve as executive producer. Nick Nolte was also signed to star alongside Depp.[10] The project did not move past the development stage.[9] During this stage, the author became so frustrated as to fire off an obscenity-laden letter calling the process a "waterhead fuckaround".[11]

In 2002, a new producer sought the project, and Benicio del Toro and Josh Hartnett were signed to star in the film adaptation.[10] The second incarnation also did not move past the development stage.[9] In 2007, producer Graham King acquired all rights to the novel and sought to film the adaptation under Warner Independent Pictures.[10] Depp, who previously starred in the 1998 film adaptation of Thompson's novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was cast as the freelance journalist Paul Kemp.[9] Amber Heard is reported to have been preferred over Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley. Bruce Robinson joined to write the screenplay and to direct The Rum Diary.[10] In 2009, Depp's production company Infinitum Nihil took on the project with the financial backing of King and his production company GK Films. Principal photography began in Puerto Rico on March 25, 2009.[6] Composer Christopher Young signed on to compose the film's soundtrack.[12]

Robinson had been sober for six and a half years before he started writing the screenplay for The Rum Diary.[13] The film maker found himself suffering from writer's block. He started drinking a bottle of wine a day until he finished the script and then he quit drinking again. He spent a year filming in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Hollywood and resisted drinking until the crew arrived in Fajardo. Robinson remembers, "It was 100 degrees at two in the morning and very humid. Everyone's drenched in sweat. One of the prop guys goes by with a barrow-load of ice and Coronas. I said: 'Johnny, this doesn't mean anything.' And reached for a Corona. ... Some savage drinking took place. When I was no longer in Johnny's environment I went back to sobriety."[13]

In regard to playing the character of Kemp, Depp compared and related it to his previous role in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He said “The way I approached it was that the character of Paul Kemp is Raoul Duke as he was learning to speak. It was like playing the same character, only 15 years before. This guy’s got something; there’s an energy burning underneath it, it’s just ready to pop up, shoot out.”


The Rum Diary received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 50% of 160 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.6 out of 10. The website's consensus is, "It's colorful and amiable enough, and Depp's heart is clearly in the right place, but The Rum Diary fails to add sufficient focus to its rambling source material."[14] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 56 based on 37 reviews.[15] CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was a "C" on an A+ to F scale.[16]

Wyatt Williams, writing for Creative Loafing, argues that "the movie version amounts to Thompson's whole vision of journalism, glossed and made plain by Hollywood."[17]

See also


  1. ^ Fleming, Mike (March 29, 2011). "Johnny Depp's Second Hunter Thompson Pic, 'Rum Diary,' Lands At FilmDistrict". Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  2. ^ (15)"The Rum Diary".  
  3. ^ a b "The Rum Diary (2011)".  
  4. ^ Kaufman, Amy (October 27, 2011). "Movie Projector: 'Puss in Boots' to stomp on competition".  
  5. ^ "GK Films and Infinitum Nihil's The Rum Diary Lands at Filmdistrict". Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Now Filming"The Rum Diary".  
  7. ^ Dodd, Stacy (April 1, 2009). "'"Michael Rispoli joins 'Rum Diary.  
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b c d Tilly, Chris (December 2007). "'"Depp opens 'Rum Diary.  
  10. ^ a b c d Goldstein, Gregg (July 30, 2007). "'"Depp toasts Hunter S. Thompson with 'Rum Diary. Reuters. 
  11. ^ "Okay, you lazy bitch". Letters of Note. 2009-09-17. Retrieved 2012-02-24. 
  12. ^ "The Rum Diary"Christopher Young to score . MovieScore Magazine. October 9, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  13. ^ a b Chalmers, Robert (February 20, 2011). ""The Rum Diary"Bruce Robinson: "I started drinking again because of .  
  14. ^ "The Rum Diary (2011)".  
  15. ^ "The Rum Diary Reviews".  
  16. ^ Finke, Nikki (October 30, 2011). "Snow Ices Box Office: ‘Puss In Boots’ #1, ‘Paranormal’ #2, ‘In Time’ #3, ‘Rum Diary’ #4".  
  17. ^ "A rum diary: Fear and self-loathing in the multiplex".  

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