Bill Murray was once referred to as the "tippy-top of the A-List" (by a man from Tallahassee—but not the man from Tallahassee), and has been celebrated by many of us as one of the finest actors in the history of Hollywood. With all sincerity do I mean that: he is comedically brilliant, and dramatically exquisite. So, whatever side of himself he'll be hosing us down with in the upcoming Roman Coppola film, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, we should be ready to be doused in some vehement amazement. Murray will be joining an already impressive cast including Charlie Sheen, the indy-maestro Jason Schwartzman and the heart-stealing Aubrey Plaza.
Murray has regaled us with talent for over thirty years. Some of his career highlights include Carl Spackler in Caddyshack, Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters, Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, his roles in Wes Anderson films such as Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Acquatic (not to mention the upcoming Moonrise Kingdom), and Bob Harris in Lost in Translation. Murray is also one of the few non-Johnny Depp actors to portray Hunter S. Thompson in film (to the writer's delight, at least), playing Thompson in Where the Buffalo Roam. My point: Bill Murray is good. His range is insurmountable. His delivery is human and deliberate. His everything is everything it should be.
Charlie Sheen will play the titular Charles Swan III, a wealthy, famous graphic artist whose life enters a dismal downward spiral after a devastating breakup. No word on who Murray will play just yet. But guaranteed: BEST CHARACTER. And this is coming from someone who really loves both Jason Schwartzman and Aubrey Plaza. ... Funny People was awesome.
Robinson vowed never to direct another film after 1992 flop Jennifer 8, and stuck to his word until Depp contacted him about the movie adaptation of his late pal Hunter S. Thompson's book.
And the director is delighted he overcame his reluctance to tackle the project.
He tells Total Film magazine, "The worst creative experience I've ever had in my life was working in the studio system making that f**king Jennifer 8. It was so catastrophically painful for me that I swore I would never direct a film again, and I kept my promise for 17 years.
"(Depp's) confidence in me, saying you've got to direct this - I was very reluctant and resistant to the proposition... he sort of hounded me and said you're doing it. Next thing, there he was in front of the lens and I'm doing it! I hadn't done it for so long.
"Because of the power (Depp's) got I felt very relaxed making the film and felt like I was making a great movie. Johnny seems to think that Hunter would be over the moon with it, and that does me (makes me happy)."
The Hollywood star portrays a boozing 'gonzo journalist' in the film and life seemed to imitate art in the Big Apple this week when Depp arrived at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) to promote the movie, which is based on the late Hunter S. Thompson book of the same name.
One of Depp's security members had to give the actor a helping hand as soon as he pulled up to the venue in his car, and the bodyguard was photographed lifting Depp up and taking him over to meet and greet the waiting fans, before positioning the star in front of the world's media.
An eyewitness tells WENN, "Depp looked absolutely wasted.
"The bodyguard essentially had to hold him upright the entire time he was on the carpet. He carried him out of the car and then literally picked him up off the ground and carried him over to the fans and handed him a pen.
"After a bit, (the bodyguard) just picked him up and carried him over to pose for the photographers and then held him upright as he walked into the theatre. Depp didn't look like he could stand up on his own for very long without help from his bodyguard."
But Depp remained in good spirits throughout the premiere and was snapped smiling as the bodyguard marched him into the MoMa for the screening.
A representative for the actor was unavailable for comment as WENN went to press.
You may know Hunter S. Thompson as a drug fiend. Or a pervert. Or a hero. Or a drunk. Or a great writer. Or a gun enthusiast. Or an extreme leftist. Or maybe even as a friend of Jimmy Buffett. But no matter which descriptor you land on, it’s not a complete picture of the Thompson legend. He was, and continues to be, a deep well of intrigue. It’s no wonder that a man with such a wealth of stories – especially stories in the vein of his own brand of Gonzo journalism – is consistently sought as a subject on film. But at the same time, it’s that wealth that makes it almost impossible to capture a comprehensive representation, though one man seems to have the art of HST down to a science.
It’s fairly easy to see that Johnny Depp is hands-down the best portrayer of Thompson out there, but that’s not to say there haven’t been other valiant attempts; the most notable of which was an undertaking by funny man Bill Murray. In 1980, Murray attempted to fill those infamous aviator sunglasses in a little film called Where the Buffalo Roam. It was based on Thompson’s own writing from works like The Great Shark Hunt, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, with an emphasis on an obituary Thompson wrote for his cohort, attorney and activist Oscar Zeta Acosta called “The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat.” The film follows very loosely the way in which Thompson rose to fame while delving into his relationship with Acosta (Peter Boyle). While the real Thompson served as “executive consultant” on the film, Where the Buffalo Roam is a bit of a cartoonish depiction of the beloved writer. Not that there aren’t elements of Thompson that are comical and food for a film like this, but the film itself only scratched the surface.
Aside from other iterations like Doonsbury’s Uncle Duke – who was so dedicated a representation of Thompson that his character left the Doonsbury world the same way HST left ours –Depp is the only actor who’s been brave enough to throw his whole being into filling those large, complex shoes. And he’s done it not once or twice, but four separate times. And each time he does it, we see a different facet of Thompson. First – and most famously – Depp starred as Duke, the protagonist and Thompson’s persona in the Terry Gilliam film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It’s a part that almost went to other actors like Jack Nicholson, John Malkovich and even John Cusack before it landed in Depp’s lap, but it’s a role that seemed to be almost tailored for him.
In preparation, Depp spent four months living in the basement of Thompson’s famous Owl Farm, reading his notes, studying his mannerisms and getting perhaps the most important feature of all: Thompson’s stamp of approval. Depp donned Thompson’s own clothing in the film and displayed the fruit of all his studying: the closest replica of Thompson on film that wasn’t actually Thompson himself. He gives the same manic weight to the script that Thompson’s words evoke as one reads the mind-bending tale. Depp delivers the Thompson fans of his novels always hoped they’d get to see one day – of course the real HST does make a cameo in the film as well.
But Depp’s journey into Thompson’s world proved fruitful again. After his death, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson went into the works. While it’s a documentary, Depp once again lent his ability to channel the good doctor to the film, adding an eerie, but all too real layer to Thompson’s life story. While friends, family, colleagues – if you can call people like the Hells Angels colleagues – tell of their experiences with the legendary writer, Depp provides a deeper connection by reading excerpts from his books and notes in his perfected HST murmur.
Then comes the moment Depp takes all he’s learned about Thompson and uses it to fuel another character: Rango. From the classic Hawaiian shirt to a physique that looks like he stepped right out of a Ralph Steadman drawing onto the screen, Rango is a visual homage to Thompson at the very least. Of course, there’s also the moment in which Rango actually has a run-in with two men driving a “Red Shark” and looking suspiciously like Duke and Dr. Gonzo from Fear and Loathing. Add in the existential, seemingly drug-induced (though it’s a kids’ movie so it’s just dehydration-induced) trek across the highway and through the desert towards the end of the film and you’ve got a character laced with HST. Of course, only Depp, after forging a friendship with Thompson, has the authority in Hollywood to get away with such homages – and he does it so lovingly and accurately, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’d complain too zealously.
Of course, that unshakable right to portray his late friend on film made him the only choice for the long-awaited adaptation of Thompson’s most fictionalized novel, The Rum Diary. He stars as Paul Kemp, a thinly veiled iteration of Thompson’s young self, as he moves to Puerto Rico to write for a newspaper – much like Thompson did in 1960. At this point, we’re so familiar with Depp’s ability to deliver our beloved Thompson on film, it’s not even remarkable anymore. The minute he opens his mouth to speak as Paul Kemp, we’re already onboard – we know he’s got this. Besides, he’s the reason any of us even know The Rum Diary. It was Depp who found the manuscript while living with HST in preparation for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and urged him to publish it – and of course, Depp later ushered it to Hollywood and here we are. In a way, with The Rum Diary, Depp comes full circle.
Thompson will continue to intrigue writers and literary enthusiasts for years to come, so I’m sure that the representations we’ve seen on screen won’t be the last, but I’ll bet we’ll never see anything that expresses the fervent, respectful veneration of the representations Depp has delivered. And as a longtime Thompson fan and a longtime Depp fan, that’s perfectly alright with me.
While there is no small measure of delight inherent in the weekly spotlighting of on-the-rise talent, there is something further rewarding about showcasing up-and-comers from my own town. Such is the case with this week’s subject: the lovely, Austin-born Amber Heard.
This week, Amber will appear alongside Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary, based on a novel by, and tracking the continuing exploits of, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. In anticipation of the release of this Austinite’s latest film, here’s a look back at some of her previous work highly deserving of your attention.
Friday Night Lights
This 2004 film, which spawned its own television series two years later, is where Amber Heard first garnered attention.
Based on the book by Buzz Bissinger, the film follows the football team of Permian High School in Permian, Texas in the late 80s. Friday Night Lights adeptly chronicles the events of that season from multiple perspectives and eloquently investigates some fascinating connections between high school football and larger issues such as racism, small town economics, and the uncertainty of adolescence. If you are a fan of either football or simply fantastic characters and enthralling stories, Friday Night Lights is a film catered to your tastes. Heard, in her first feature film, plays the girlfriend of an Odessa-Permian receiver whose father, a former player, is intensely abusive. Her pleas for humanity during the father’s drunken tirades enhance the film’s emotional weight.
Even with the endless saturation of zombie media over the last several years, Zombieland managed to breath some new life into the shambling subgenre with its unique blend of satirical comedy and legitimate zombie-fighting action.
While Amber’s role in the film was small and her screen time brief, she succeeded in creating one of Zombieland’s most memorable moments. During the scene in which we are given insight into the background of the film’s young hero, played by Jesse Eisenberg, he is shown comforting his attractive neighbor who has just been attacked by what turns out to be the walking undead. When she inevitably transforms, Heard turns in a very savage and wholly convincing zombie performance; throwing her entire body into the part with great aplomb.
The film that, along with Harold Kumar Go To White Castle, officially ushered in the glorious return of the studio stoner comedy, 2008’s Pineapple Express was definitely a big hit (no pun intended). The film charts the exploits of two hapless potheads, played by Seth Rogen and James Franco, who inadvertently get caught up in a murder conspiracy. Here again, Heard’s role is a supporting one, playing Rogen’s age-disproportionate high school girlfriend. She engages in some impressive banter with Rogen, keeping his character perpetually humble.
Drive Angry 3D
Nicolas Cage plays a man with a dark and infernal past who is on a violent quest to avenge the death of his daughter and to recover his infant granddaughter from an evil cult leader. Accompanying him on this quest is a beautiful young woman—who also happens to be tougher than a railroad spike.
Drive Angry may have repelled a few potential viewers while it was in theaters, due to its silly trailers and heavy reliance on 3D. Truth be told, it is quite a silly movie. But it’s also incredibly entertaining (in an old school exploitation sort of way). Heard is razor sharp as the character Piper, who proves to be simultaneously the voice of reason for Cage’s bizarre protagonist and the perfect sidekick for his misadventures.
All The Boys Love Mandy Lane
Mandy Lane is a popular girl at her high school, but it’s been a while since she’s attended any parties. The last one she attended ended with the senseless death of one of her classmates. Almost a year later, she is convinced to attend a shindig at the ranch home of the father of another student. But as the evening progresses, several attendees begin to disappear one by one.
Up front we will warn you that All The Boys Love Mandy Lane is going to be a tough film to track down. It is not currently streaming and this American independent horror film was never released on DVD stateside. But should you possess a region-free player that would allow you to import this film, it is more than worth the effort. The film combines classic 80s horror tropes (the party horror movie) with the more extreme trends of modern horror. Heard is electric and eerily intriguing in the titular role.
"He never leaves... On my first day of shooting on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas I get this call from Bill Murray halfway through the day. He says, 'I just want to warn you about something. Be careful when you're playing Hunter because he never leaves.' Nothing has never been more true. He's still in me every day.'" Johnny Depp has felt a deep connection to Hunter S. Thompson ever since he portrayed the late writer in 1998 movie Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas. Murray portrayed Thompson in 1980 film Where the Buffalo Roam.
Both felt the late 'gonzo journalist' who wrote the book the film was based on was there with them in spirit - and they celebrated the man, who was a close friend of Depp's, with a morning ritual.
Robinson tells WENN, "We had Hunter's chair with a script and Dunhill cigarettes and a bottle of Chivas Regal every morning before we started work. Johnny and I would stick our fingers in (the Chivas Regal) and put the perfume of the whiskey behind our ears to celebrate Hunter. This was for him."
Depp adds, "It was the idea of keeping Hunter's spirit alive on the set for us. I knew I had Hunter with me. When I put my head on the pillow at night, I had him with me. It became addictive for everyone to go over and dab the whiskey on their ear."
Just to keep us guessing, Johnny Depp likes to take a little bit of mainstream and mix it with a little bit of the outskirts. As we know, period dramas are all the rage these days. Mad Men ignited the fad, sparking the great Boardwalk Empire, and newbies Pan Am and the recently-cancelled Playboy Club. So Depp's attachment as producer to a period piece about William Wilkerson, founder of The Hollywood Reporter and Las Vegas' Flamingo Hotel and the man responsible for discovering Lana Turner, is no big eyebrow-raiser. What is a bit bizarre is where this series will air: Lifetime.
Lifetime is infamous for its melodramatic TV movies about tragic accidents, miracle births and women fighting oppression. A dramatic series about high society mogul Wilkerson is not exactly the network's wheelhouse. But perhaps Lifetime is trying to extend its appeal to larger audiences. Depp is certainly one way to go about that. Reportedly, he will have a cameo role in the series -- although if we know Depp, that part won't remain a cameo for very long.
Graham King is producing the series with Depp. King also produced the Depp-starring films Rango and the upcoming Hunter S. Thompson adaptation, The Rum Diary.
The actor is releasing the album through his production company Infinitum Nihil, and it will feature an instrumental from the Johnny Depp Band and a duet with JJ Holiday.
The record will also feature Christopher Young's score, Dean Martin's Volare and Patti Smith's The Mermaid Song, according to Billboard.com.
The film is adapted from the novel of the same name from Depp's longtime friend, the late Hunter S. Thompson.
To a great deal of people, this man means a lot.
He's a man who will certainly not be forgot.
His name's Theodor Geisel, known well as Dr. Seuss.
He's a man of great wisdom, not hardly obtuse.
And he must mean a lot to ol' Johnny Depp:
a dapper young scrap with a pep in his step.
Many a film does this Johnny produce.
And now he'll produce one of ol' Dr. Seuss.
Ol' Johnny as' Geisel—a wonderful match!
To play this dear writer, ol' Depp is a natch!
The project is young still, not quite underway.
But if Depp has his way, then we'll see it some day.
And a film about Seuss? This is long overdue!
The man who imbued us with many a Hoo.
So celebrate, all, this splendiforous news.
A movie, by Johnny, about Dr. Seuss.
In case that wasn't clear, Johnny Depp is putting together (to possibly star in) a biopic about Dr. Seuss. Nothing is cemented yet, but Depp is apparently dedicated to the idea. In the past, Depp has starred in biopic films about writers including , J.M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan (in Finding Neverland), satirist John Wilmot (in The Libertine), and Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on the Gonzo journalist's book of the same name; Depp will also be starring in the upcoming Thompson adaptation The Rum Diary, in theaters October 28). Keep your ear out for news on this development; it could be a real winner.