The British writer-director of such films as "Withnail & I" and "How To Get Ahead In Advertising" had all but given up on filmmaking before Depp -- fulfilling a promise he had made to the legendary Thompson while alive -- approached him with the project, based on the Thompson's own experiences as a young journalist in Puerto Rico in 1960. Once everything had come together and Robinson was on board, though, the cult director notes that, after six and a half years sober, "the reason I started again was 'The Rum Diary.'"
"I was sitting in front of the typewriter with six-and-a-half years of sobriety under my belt," Robinson tells the Independent, in a fascinating feature profile. "And because of that title – 'The Rum Diary' – the creative side of me is saying: 'GO THERE.' The AA side is saying: 'DON'T.' The result was that I couldn't write a fucking line. Nothing, nothing, nothing. I said to Sophie, 'I can't get there. Maybe – this may be the deviousness of alcohol, but... maybe I can't write this unless I have some wine.' And, God bless her, she said, 'Well, you'll have to have some then.' I wrote the script pretty quickly after that. But I stuck to wine as a medicine. I drank a bottle a day. When I finished the script, I went back to total sobriety."
On another occasion Robinson recalled, they "were in a place called Fajardo. It was 100 degrees at two in the morning and very humid. Everyone's drenched in sweat. One of the prop guys goes by with a barrow-load of ice and Coronas. I said: 'Johnny, this doesn't mean anything.' And reached for a Corona... some savage drinking took place. When I was no longer in Johnny's environment I went back to sobriety."
The move was not without its risk as alcohol hasn't always been kind to Robinson over the years. He notes that, under the influence, he once "fell five storeys from the house in Camden Town" and that he's "done some terrible things in cars." These days he's more disciplined and in control, "I'll have a glass of wine very occasionally, at the moment. I will go back to the AA. But I do quite enjoy having a glass without freaking out."
So, after all this, would Robinson's retirement plans simply be kicking back a gear after his latest effort is released? "'The Rum Diary' has de-innoculated me. I now have this real desire to do it again," Robinson revealed, but don't expect him to be going to a studio any time soon. "When we started filming, my first dictum was to say, 'I am not going near a studio. If the camera doesn't fit, we'll knock the wall down.' The whole experience was like a dream. The producer of the film is Johnny. Which means that, so long as he is on the set, smiling, with his arm around me, I am fucking safe."
According to the article, the film itself -- which co-stars Giovanni Ribisi, Richard Jenkins, Michael Rispoli and the gorgeous Amber Heard -- is actually finished but won't be seeing a release through GK Films until September "to fit in with Depp's schedule." A fall festival unveiling seems likely but, prior to that, there are rumors of an appearance on the Croisette. Depp has even thrown his own plans into the mix recently talking about taking the film on a small college tour in the spirit of Thompson, who "used to go and do talks at colleges and things like that," but whether that is anything more than a pipedream remains to be seen.