Inside Johnny Depp And Hunter S. Thompson's Bizarre Bromance
Johnny Depp's reputation is based on a mixed bag of legal controversies, allegations, and strangeness. It only makes sense that he would get along splendidly with Hunter S. Thompson, one of the most outrageous and hard-partying writers of all time. Thompson, perhaps most famous for writing the recreational-substance-fueled epic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, brought Depp under his wing and led him on a series of hair-raising adventures. The two of them shared a close bond that lasted until Thompson's passing in 2005.
Even after his demise, their story wasn't quite over. Thompson's service was a fiery event, funded by Depp, himself. Before that happened, though, a trip to Cuba, a homemade incendiary device, and a meeting in a Colorado tavern informed the close friendship between Depp and Thompson.
- Photo: Rose Hartman/Contributor / Archive Photos/Getty Images
When They First Met, Thompson Had A Cattle Prod And A Taser
Depp loved Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as a teenager, so when he got the opportunity to meet its author, he accepted. They first met in December 1994 at the Woody Creek Tavern in Aspen, CO. Depp sat in the back and waited for Thompson to arrive.
When Thompson came in, he shouted, "Out of my way, you b*stards!" Depp saw sparks flying as Thompson shoved the prod and a Taser toward the crowd, which quickly cleared his path to Depp.
Thompson Built Incendiary Equipment Just For Depp
Around 2:00 am on the night of their first meeting, Depp and Thompson returned to the author's Owl Farm home. Depp complimented a 12-gauge hanging on Thompson's wall. Thompson asked if Depp wanted to shoot it. When Depp said yes, Thompson declared, "Sh*t, man, we must build a [detonation device]!”
The two men assembled it out of propane tanks and nitroglycerine, and Depp fired from about 35 yards away. The entire thing went up in a giant, luminous spectacle.
Depp believes it was this "rite of passage" that cemented the pair's friendship.
- Video: YouTube
Depp Paid For Thompson's Ashes To Be Blasted Out Of A Cannon
As part of his last wishes, Thompson requested that his remains be blasted out of a 150-foot-tall cannon. Depp, who took responsibility for Thompson's services, decided it had to be taller than the 151-foot Statue of Liberty in tribute to Thompson's excess. The final 153-foot tall structure was shaped like Thompson's famous "Freak Power" logo.
Depp loaded it with gunpowder and fireworks, as well as Thompson's ashes. The whole event cost $3 million.
- Photo: The Rum Diary/FilmDistrict
Depp Encouraged Thompson To Publish His Novella 'The Rum Diary'
As Depp and Thompson became closer friends, Thompson allowed Depp to look through his old manuscripts and memorabilia. In the late '90s, Depp read a novella Thompson began in the early '60s called The Rum Diary.
The two of them became excited about the story; Thompson even wanted to skip publication and turn it into a movie. In the end, at Depp's urging, Thompson revised the novella and published it in 1998.
- Photo: Flamingo
According To Depp, Thompson Toned Down 'Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas'
While researching his role for the film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Depp gained access to three boxes marked "the Vegas book." They contained a treasure trove of items related to the novel. Among the artifacts were a brochure from the story's anti-drug conference, stolen bars of Neutrogena soap, and three notebooks containing Thompson's notes.
The notebooks detailed a host of stories more extreme than those included in the book, which Thompson actually toned down from the truth. As Depp put it, "I think the book is a calmer version of what actually happened."
Thompson Criticized Depp's Movie Wardrobe
When Depp had his first costume test for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, he sent photos to Thompson. The writer humorously critiqued the costume and said he thought Depp would make him "[a donkey]." Depp sent Thompson a lengthy, panicked letter defending his portrayal. Thompson's reply was short and simple: "Cheer up. I was just answering yr. question(s) about the wardrobe."
Depp also had to shave his head to match Thompson's bald pate, but in Thompson's opinion, Hollywood hairstylists didn't go far enough. Thompson himself completed the haircut while wearing a miner's lamp on his head for visibility.