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The Filming
How bad could it be? Spending ten weeks filming a movie, inspired by a Hunter S. Thompson novel, in Puerto Rico with Johnny Depp. Principal photography began in the historic and beautiful city of Old San Juan. The cast and crew stayed at the legendary Caribbe Hilton, where Thompson himself had hung out. "I'd love to make every movie I do in Puerto Rico,” producer Graham King says. "My hotel was on the beach and I'd go swimming every morning!”

Old San Juan is a stop off point for many of the Caribbean cruises. Word quickly spread, among the tourists and locals alike, that Johnny Depp was in town. At first, there was just a small group of onlookers. However, after the first day's extensive coverage in the local newspaper, the streets outside the set were lined with people anxious to see him in the flesh. Day by day, the numbers increased and finally the security people had to cordon off the sidewalk in order to keep the fans and media out of the street.

Every night at wrap, Johnny Depp walked the line of fans shaking hands and signing autographs. His fans, and the local paparazzi, were ecstatic. Several of the kids were dressed as pirates, and Johnny spent some extra time with them as a reward for their efforts.

The Rum Diary filmed many scenes in old San Juan, and once filming there was complete, the company moved to Fajardo, on the northeast coast of Puerto Rico. Construction of Sanderson's house began on the Governor's beach, which is one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches on the island. The company also filmed for some time at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, the former U.S. air base. It was there they shot most of the driving sequences using the red Corvette. They also filmed part of a driving sequence in El Yunque, Puerto Rico's famous rainforest.

During filming in Puerto Rico, Johnny Depp was visited by several old friends, one of whom was singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist Patti Smith.

Smith kept very busy during her time there. "I very rarely just visit,” says Smith. "If I like where I am, I always wind up becoming engaged, even abstractly. I kept a The Rum Diary diary. I took a lot of pictures, made certain observations, and wrote some songs. It's actually been very productive for me. Being in a positive atmosphere with people focused working as one mind was great. It's amazing how much work I've accomplished supposedly doing nothing.”

"It was interesting to watch Paul Kemp loosen up and become Hunter S. Thompson,” observes Smith. "Johnny knows so much about the inner mechanism of Hunter, his inner narrative. He can apply that to a guy like Paul Kemp. He is probably the straightest guy that Johnny's ever played, but he ain't no square,” says Smith with a laugh.

After reading the script on the plane, Smith was inspired to write a song. "I fell asleep reading and when I woke up, as I was clawing my way into consciousness, this little song was in my mind. I wrote it down because I had wanted to sing it as a present for Bruce and Johnny. Of all the viewpoints I could have taken, for some reason, I took that of Chenault's.” This song is now in the end credits to the film.

Hunter S. Thompson died in 2005, but Depp and Robinson were determined to keep his spirit alive on set. "One of my last efforts to salute the man was to continue on in our venture and force him even in death to be a producer,” says Depp. "I asked that there be a chair made for Hunter with his name on it; I asked that there be a script cover made for Hunter with his name on it; I asked that there be an ashtray and a little block of a packet of Dunhills with a cigarette holder every day with a lighter, for Hunter; I asked that there be a bottle of Chivas Regal next to his chair every day, and of course a highball glass filled with ice next to the bottle, for Hunter. We had to somehow utilize all these elements to recognize Hunter, to salute him. Bruce and I would arrive on set every morning, saunter up to the highball glass, pour it full with Chivas Regal, dunk our fingers in, maybe take a sip and get on with the day—just to make sure that Hunter was there. And he was there. Every day, every second, every moment. For us.”


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