King, WIP toast 'Rum' with Depp


NEW YORK -- Hunter S. Thompson's 1959 novel "The Rum Diary," first published in 1998 and set for film adaptation in 2000, may finally reach the screen with star-producer Johnny Depp, Warner Independent Pictures and Graham King's GK Films.

GK acquired all rights to the late author's autobiographical first novel for Depp to star in and produce with King and WIP through his Infinitum Nihil production company. The film also will be produced with Film Engine, with A.J. Dix, Anthony Rhulen and William Shively attached alongside Robert Kravis and Greg Shapiro.

Bruce Robinson, whose 1987 comedy "Withnail & I" gained a cult following, is writing the adapted screenplay and directing.

"Rum Diary" is loosely based on Thompson's experience working as a freelance journalist in Puerto Rico in the late '50s. Depp will play a reporter who works alongside a motley crew of self-destructive staffers at a struggling San Juan newspaper, where an erotic love triangle emerges.

A GK spokesperson said it is hoped that production will begin shortly after principal photography is completed on Depp's next film, Mira Nair's crime drama "Shantaram," for Warner Bros. Pictures and producers King, Infinitum Nihil and Plan B. No shooting dates have been set for either film.

Many plans to make "Rum Diary" have been announced over the years. The now-defunct indie production outfit Shooting Gallery and SPi Films optioned the book and announced plans to make the film in 2000, with Depp set to star and exec produce and Nick Nolte co-starring and his Kingsgate Entertainment also producing. Film Engine picked up the option in 2002 and announced plans to produce it with Kingsgate partner Shapiro. Benicio Del Toro and Josh Hartnett were soon attached as cast members.

Del Toro reportedly was set to make his directorial debut with "Rum Diary" in late 2003, but the project remained dormant through Thompson's February 2005 suicide. It was resurrected in April by new production outfit Dark & Stormy Entertainment, co-founded by Shooting Gallery alum Kravis, with Robinson and Depp attached. Distributor WIP's new involvement in the project may provide better luck for its eventual production.

According to their reps, Del Toro, Nolte and Hartnett are no longer attached to the project.

Depp and King's companies also are joining with Warners to produce a film adaptation of ABC's 1966-71 vampire soap opera "Dark Shadows."

Depp's credits include playing Thompson's alter ego in Terry Gilliam's 1996 adaptation of the author's book "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" for Universal Pictures.

Depp is represented by UTA.