Johnny Depp has already channeled the spirit of his late friend, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, a number of times on the big screen.
Over a decade ago, Depp brought the writer's wild alter-ego to life in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Earlier this year, he said the personality of the animated lizard he played in "Rango" was inspired by Thompson, who committed suicide in 2005. And in just a few weeks, Depp will continue his effort to keep the icon's image alive with "The Rum Diary," based on one of Thompson's novels and costarring Aaron Eckhart and Amber Heard.
The movie, shot back in 2009, was a passion project for Depp, who said he still has visions of Thompson and feels the writer's spirit is with him "24 hours a day."
"There's this great friend that I knew and loved who left this world in 2005, and still stays with me somehow," he mused on the red carpet at the premiere of "The Rum Diary" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Thursday evening. "I mean, literally, my head hits the pillow, I think of him. I wake up in the morning, I think of him."
Depp plays a journalist who moves to Puerto Rico and begins working at a troubled newspaper where he and his co-workers become booze hounds. The story draws heavily from Thompson's experiences in the tropical paradise, where he worked in his 20s in a similar environment.
That Depp was so familiar with Thompson's story proved to be an asset for the actor's costars.
"Johnny just knows Hunter so well and knows the words and is so involved in the project that it's just effortless," said Eckhart, who plays a rival of Depp's character.
"It's a passion project for him, and it made me trust all the more in the material," added actress Heard, "The Rum Diary's" love interest. "It was a wild ride."
"The Rum Diary" hits theaters Oct. 28.
— Amy Kaufman
Photo: Johnny Depp at the premiere of "The Rum Diary" on Oct. 13. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press.