Johnny DeppIf your news feed hasn’t already been blown up by statuses concerning the proximity of Johnny Depp to this or that friend, then you might find it relevant to know that Captain Jack Sparrow himself just recently swashbuckled through campus.

A Q & A session with Edward Scissorhands/Willy Wonka/one of the greatest actors alive (Depp) and Oscar-nominated director/screenplay writer Bruce Robinson took place last night in Wheeler Auditorium, following an advance screening of their new film, “The Rum Diary.”

As you can imagine, there was a lot of shrieking, “I love you Johnny!” and general squeals of excitement. After all, this is the man who was named Sexiest Man Alive just a few years ago. And mind you, he was wearing a slightly un-bottoned collared shirt, revealing a peek of his sexy bare chest underneath. But enough ogling — on to the good stuff.

The movie, which is based off the book by the same name by Hunter S. Thompson, chronicles iconic American journalist Paul Kemp’s early years in Puerto Rico. Kemp (Depp), is a washed-up alcoholic working for a failing newspaper. The majority of the film revolves around Kemp drinking a great deal of booze, galavanting around Puerto Rico, and hooking up with an extremely tan Amber Heard. There’s a bit of melodramatic character evolution towards the end, but beyond that the biggest impression the Clog came away with was that Puerto Rican beaches are awesome.

Overall, the film itself was entertaining but about a half-hour too long, with one too many intoxication scenes, Aaron Eckhart (looking like he’s aged 20 years since “The Dark Knight”) moments and shots of boom mikes. Oh yes, one cannot forget the boom mikes. But that’s for later.

So now that the movie is over and done with, we come to the main attraction of the evening. The Q & A begins with a small discussion of how Depp got involved with the project, and snapshots of his close friendship with Thompson.

Apparently, Depp met Thompson in 1995; while standing in his kitchen, Depp noticed Thompson’s nickel-plated 12-gauge shotgun. Thompson noticed Depp looking at it and asked him if he wanted to fire it. Depp said yes, and then Thompson replied, “Well if we’re gonna fire it we should build some bombs.” After which, they proceeded to build bombs, fire the gun and send up an 80-foot fireball. Thus began a long-lasting friendship.

How did this project get started? Well, while Depp was doing research for “Fear and Loathing in Las Veags” (also a Thompson novel), he noticed a box in Thompson’s apartment. He opened it and saw “The Rum Diary” inside — after reading it, he told Thompson that he should publish the book, to which Thompson asked, why not produce it? Ahh, small ideas that begin in people’s apartments and bloom to full Hollywood productions — how American dream-ish indeed.

The project officially began in 1997, with Depp and Thompson running around scrounging up as much money as they could to get the film produced. Unfortunately, Thompson committed suicide in 2005, and never got to see the finished product; Depp says that he views the film as a form of “closure” for him.

Robinson, on the other hand, had always been “a consummate fan of Thompson’s for many years.” One day, while lying in bed with a massive hangover, his roommate threw a Thompson book at him. Robinson read it, felt that Thompson’s language and vernacular really related to him and has, ever-since, loved Thompson’s writing.

This is Depp’s second time playing a Thompson role, albeit a much younger version. Depp says that the hardest part about this role was “finding that version of Hunter — the Paul Kemp version” where he still hadn’t found an outlet to express his anger and frustration — where he still hadn’t found his voice yet.

So that’s the background and set-up; now what did the Cal audience have to ask him? Here are some standout moments:

We all have a THAT guy in our classes — you know, the one who obnoxiously points out the professor’s mistakes and attempts to correct the person with the Ph.D. So, boom mikes. Yep, there were a couple of scenes in the movie where the boom mike dips into the shot. Clearly this is just an editing flaw. Clearly you don’t point this out to the director and star of the film in front of hundreds of people when there are many better questions you could be asking. Clearly this will create an awkward situation.

Well THAT guy gets up to the microphone and asks, “So what was the directorial decision to include boom mikes in the movie?” We at the Clog simply sat in our seats, cringed and face-palmed ourselves. What boom mikes? Robinson is confused about the question; the audience can tell that the director doesn’t know. The audience is calling for THAT guy to just stop. But THAT guy persists — he really wants to publicly call out Robinson. “Why did you put boom mikes in the shot?” he asks again.

Depp (like us) is getting very annoyed at this point — young man, you do not insult this bad-ass director; how many Oscar nominations do you have? Oh that’s right, none. “What the fuck do you wanna know about it?” Depp demands. THAT guy still doesn’t get the point. He keeps pushing it. Robinson goes “Oh, that was a ceiling fan” (mmhmm). THAT guy gets discouraged, throws up a peace sign and takes a seat.

But Depp won’t let it go. The next question is: what’s your favorite Thompson novel? “Anything with a boom mike in it,” says Depp. And from here, we get boom mike jokes for the rest of the night (the answer to the aforementioned question, if you’re interested, is “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”). THAT guy leaves in disgrace.

Then there are a number of questions on the booze  — please people, these are professionals. They are not going to be drinking and filming simultaneously. Depp is asked what Hunter’s favorite drink was — “Liquid … [preferably with] ethanol.”

At this point, our token Berkeley hippie stands up in the audience and screams “Do you wanna go out?!” Apparently there’s an after-party going on somewhere. Depp smiles, nods.

Overall, the questions revolve around how he played this role, was it difficult, etc., all things that have been discussed above.

The final question of the night naturally has to be Berkeley-esque — a student asks what Robinson and Depp think about the protests going on around the world. “How do you think the 1 percent of billionaires and bankers will fall?” Uhh, good sir, you do realize that Mr. Depp is probably part of that 1 percent? You might as well just grow a pair and flat-out ask him about his wealth.

But Robinson answers as only the English can answer — he agrees that the protests are good, and that he “would rather have religion than this deity of money.”

Depp ends by saying that Hunter loved this place, and would have loved showing the film to Cal students. “He may not be visible but somehow I’ve got the fucker with me always,” he says sentimentally.

And with that, the celebrity superstar and English director depart. Of course, crowds of girls, ourselves included, follow him out so that Depp is stuck on campus for an extra half-hour.

Farewell Mr. Depp, it was a pleasure. Peace to Mr. Thompson; we’re sure he would have been honored with the film.

Clog out!

Image source: Danielle Lee, Daily Cal

BillieB said:
Oct 19, 2011 at 3:57 pm

What a wonder article very well written. And leave it to Mr. Depp to be totally honest and real…he seems to be such a love so glad you guys had the opportunity to really enjoy him. Thank you

Brock Keeling said:
Oct 20, 2011 at 10:17 am

Excellent work!

Derek said:
Oct 20, 2011 at 11:05 am

This would be better if it weren’t so sneering.
Jill Cowan would be ashamed.

THAT guy said:
Oct 20, 2011 at 11:09 am


THAT guy here. While I’m aware that the boom mike being left in shots during pre-screenings is often the fault of the projectionist, I couldn’t help but wonder if its inclusion wasn’t just a bit more.

“The Rum Diary” is one of Thompson’s works of fictions. Bear with me now; I know this might be a long shot for some. Couldn’t its inclusion be construed as a means for the director to break the fourth wall working in tandem with the fact the film is based off a work of fiction (albeit one that closely parallels Thompson’s own experiences)? It would certainly be a bold choice, and one I felt should be clarified.

In fact, I did ask if the boom mic was the result of an unedited cut or the projectionist, but likely the boos and hisses from Depp’s circle-jerking fan-boys and -girls combined with the groans and face-palm smacks of The Daily Cal’s staff drowned it out.

I guess it was too much to expect meaningful film discourse from Berkeley students and Hollywood’s elite.

-THAT guy

P.S. I’m not sure about California, but in my native Mississippi (Surprise! We’re not all illiterate!), a back-facing peace sign can also mean “deuces,” as in, “I’m done talking to you.”


susy said:
Oct 21, 2011 at 9:18 pm

It was clearly an question Depp didnt want to answer since he felt stupid or raped at that moment. Look the guy has a real question and not a fanish question of kissing Depps arse. Hey at least Depp was willing to meet him back stage and not all the girls ooo aahhh ing him. Depp was rude and crude and showed his lack of respect for the general public. While sporting his usual Hanki Code look that one up for all you who dont know what that means. That man is so done and a aging man full of himself who believes his own press. Sell out Depp who fools the masses. Billions of stupid money he will gladly take from you. Who wanted to kill chickens but didnt in the movie for Cock fights.

Jono said:
Oct 26, 2011 at 12:56 am

Hey THAT Guy. We get it. You’re a real smart movie-watching film-person. And all your friends who tell you over joints that Hollywood is so lame for not hiring visionaries like you to direct their flicks, they’re totally right. And can you believe this loser from Daily Cal who somehow didn’t get your obscure hand-gesture which in some manner is supposed to confusingly imply a sentiment more appropriately verbalized, as in “Welp, guess we’re not communicating well here, I actually had a legitimate theory on the inclusion of the boom mic. Didn’t mean to offend.”

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