It's been 19 years since Bruce Robinson directed his last film, but he's back with a big screen adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's The Rum Diary.
We spent a morning with Bruce to talk about Johnny Depp, annoying Hunter fans and the trouble with filming drug scenes, plus we asked him a few of your Twitter questions too...
LOVEFiLM: How did you get involved with making the film?
Bruce Robinson: I was on holiday in Spain and I got a very unexpected phone call from Johnny (Depp) and he asked if I’d read a book called The Rum Diary, to which the answer was no. The next thing I got a FedEx of Hunter’s novel and Johnny asked if I'd like to write the screenplay, to which the answer was yes. When I finished the screenplay he asked if I wanted to direct the film, and the answer was no but in a very sweet and charming way he bullied the hell out of me to do it.
LF: Was it clear from the beginning that you were going to combine the two main characters in Hunter’s novel into one?
BR: No it wasn’t clear. I was sat there with the book for a month and it suddenly hit me like a light bulb going on, ‘oh my god he has split himself in two characters.’ As soon as I realised that is what (Hunter) had done I was able to get a motor drive on the narrative. You can’t have two Johnny Depps in a film; you can’t have two lead men fulfilling the same function. One of them had to go and a lot of Hunter’s fans are annoyed by that.
LF: But Johnny Depp, who knew Hunter so well, is able to turn around and say he would have wanted it this way...
BR: Precisely that, I mean there is no bigger Hunter fan on earth than Johnny Depp. It didn’t bother him whose chops it is up on screen so it shouldn’t bother someone sitting in Farmingdale in Indiana with four Hunter paperbacks on his shelf. Film and literature are very different items, you have to squeeze when you write a script. Of course you have to throw a lot of things overboard, regretfully very often, but it has to be done.
Twitter question from @herestoyou4: I loved the quote about God from the film (Kemp talking with a lobster). Is that a Hunter S. Thompson or Bruce Robinson credit?
BR: Bruce Robinson credit. There are only 3 lines from Hunter in the whole screenplay. Although his ghost is all over it, I hope.
Twitter question from @themagicoflaura: What is Amber Heard like to work with?
BR: Amber is very reserved, very intelligent. Warm if you can get close enough. She’s got a little Chihuahua dog that barks if you try and get near her. I really loved working with her.
LF: What was the best thing and the most challenging thing about making The Rum Diary?
BR: Well the most difficult thing in the whole film was the LSD scene. It’s very tricky and tongue-in-cheek shooting anything to do with drugs. It’s so hard to show what is basically a subjective view.
The best thing about the movie was working with such wonderful actors. I was an actor once when I started my career and I love being with actors, particularly Johnny with whom I have a pretty close relationship.
LF: What about filming on location in Puerto Rico, how was that experience?
BR: An absolute dream. It's a wonderful place. It’s a sort of place I would genuinely go back to for a couple of weeks on holiday.
LF: What were the actual logistics of creating a 1950s location?
BR: Well it’s difficult because on occasion we had to shut the streets down which pissed everyone off, obviously. We're in Regent Street now, imagine having to replace everyone’s costume, every car, every sign. It’s very tricky and it’s an absolute testament of the skills of the Art Director Chris Seagers. I was very lucky on the film; because it was Johnny I had all the best technicians.
LF: Looking back at the film now, would you make any changes?
BR: All I ever see is mistakes. I look at it and think ‘Oh God I shouldn’t have done that, why didn’t I pull back, why why why why...’ The movie is what it is; movies are like drawings or pieces of music.I regret so many things about Withnail, wish I’d done them in a different way.
LF: What do you hope people, Hunter Thompson fans will think about the film when they go see it?
BR: My aspiration for the film is to entertain people, that’s it. I didn’t make it for Hunter Thompson fans; I just made it for the public. I hope they turn up and get entertained and have a laugh, that’s all. It’s not an exercise in Hunter Thompsonism, that’d be like saying Shakespeare in Love (was just) for people who love Shakespeare.