‘Rum Diary’ A ‘Love Letter To Hunter,’ Johnny Depp Says

Aaron Eckhart and Giovanni Ribisi also talk about writer Hunter S. Thompson's impact on the film.

From the first few moments of the trailer’s island music, bright colors and eye-catching castmembers, “The Rum Diary” looks like a whimsical vacation to paradise realized onscreen.

Based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson during the author’s own travels to Puerto Rico in the late ’50s, the film casts “Pirates of the Caribbean” leading man Johnny Depp as the writer Paul Kemp, who struggles to find a balance between work, play and the island’s increasingly tumultuous politics.

When MTV News caught up with the film’s stars, they explained how the film is a fitting tribute to Thompson’s final story, as well as to his legacy.

“The whole thing is really a love letter to Hunter,” said Depp, whose friendship with Thompson led to the discovery of the late author’s unpublished manuscript and eventually the idea to make it into a film. “The film from the very inception, opening that cardboard box and finding the manuscript to ‘The Rum Diary’ and saying to Hunter, ‘What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you publish this?’ and him saying, ‘Well we should produce this,’ the chain of events that happened over the years and then us trying ignorantly to drum up the money was just a very funny experience,” Depp said of the story’s journey from page to screen.

“Even though my partner is not right next to me, we’re going to still produce this film together, and ultimately we did,” Depp said of deciding to move forward with the production after Thompson’s death in 2005. “Even if his presence, if he wasn’t visible, we still produced the film together.”

Aaron Eckhart stars alongside Depp in a second villainous role since his stint as Harvey “Two-Face” Dent in “The Dark Knight.” Depp’s love and passion for Thompson and his work made the film a more meaningful experience, Eckhart said.

“I think that Johnny has taken up the mantle and has preserved his legacy and is now offering all those people out there who have never heard of Hunter, an opportunity to be familiar with his work,” he said. “Hunter was always there. He always had his chair, his empty chair on set with us, and Johnny and [director] Bruce [Robinson] had a ritual that they did every day … but his spirit was always there.”

“Avatar” bad guy Giovanni Ribisi added that, for him, the story was about “having a voice and maintaining your independence and your individuality” and that Thompson’s perception of that ideal is universal and timely.

“I think Hunter S. Thompson was such a strong factor in a time in the ’60s, he was almost the fulcrum for that [time], where people were waking up,” he said. “It was about a rebellion against this capitalist structure and the mise en scene in the story. In the book you know where America is coming and really doing its thing to this beautiful culture Puerto Rico, that setting is just incredible. That for me is what it’s about. I think, as much as I hate to say it, I think it’s very apropos to today’s psychology.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Rum Diary.”

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