In December 1999, Hunter and I went to Hollywood to pitch The Rum Diary with Johnny Depp to producers and studios who might put up the money they needed to make it a movie. Over a year had passed since the publication of the book. They had no script and no director attached – the first elements necessary to attract financing and distribution, but they were determined to get there.
Tracey Jacobs, Johnny’s dedicated agent from the beginning of his career, having booked him on the TV series “Twenty-One Jump Street” in the 80′s – set up a day long series of pitch meetings for them. Johnny graciously offered the Tiki Hut by the pool in his backyard as a venue, and we arrived early in the afternoon and stayed until almost midnight. Johnny’s mansion in Hollywood is reported to have been built for Bela Lugosi, and those who have seen Breakfast with Hunter will remember the scene I shot at 4am inside with Hunter and Johnny almost two years earlier.
That cool day in December was truly a marathon for all, but we still had fun. The ultimate test for Hunter was always “will it be fun.” Not a bad rule for living.
1999 was the year in which The Blair Witch Project had made a phenomenal amount of money at the box office as the result of the first guerrilla internet movie marketing campaign. The success of Blair Witch caused the Intermedia executives – Nigel Sinclair and Kathy Goodman – to think that strategy could be applied to a project involving Hunter. Given the lightning like evolution of the internet, it’s hard to remember how novel the world wide web was in 1999, but while filming the conversation I was thinking the whole time “I’m shooting it already, guys!”
This is the first of two webisodes in this series set in the Tiki Hut. Watching Johnny and Hunter together in these scenes will give you a sense of their relationship more, I think, than any interview could possible tell. They truly loved and respected each other.
Now having seen The Rum Diary at the world premiere last Thursday night in LA, I can safely say that Hunter would be extremely pleased with the movie that Johnny is finally releasing twelve years later. If nothing else, it’s a lot of FUN!