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10 Memorable Cinematic Alter Egos

This week Bruce Robinson’s adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel The Rum Diary opens across the country. Based on an early novel by the good doctor of gonzo journalism, the role of Thompson’s stand-in, journalist “Paul Kemp,” is being played by Johnny Depp — who has, with this film, pretty much planted is flag for good on the island of “cinematic portrayals of Hunter S. Thompson.” After the jump, we’ll take a closer look at Depp’s ongoing onscreen personification of the late Thompson, and nine more actors who became the cinematic avatars for distinctive writers and filmmakers.

ACTOR: Johnny Depp
WRITER: Hunter S. Thompson
FILMS: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Rum Diary

In addition to the aforementioned Thompson book adaptations, Depp-as-Thompson also made a quick and clever cameo in the 2010 animated comedy Rango, stumbling across the title character during the desert drive that opens Fear and Loathing. Depp wasn’t the first actor to play Thompson in a film; the 1980 comedy Where the Buffalo Roam featured Bill Murray as the Rolling Stone columnist and pioneering “gonzo journalist.” But that picture was unloved by both audiences and critics, and while Thompson praised Murray’s work (and, to be fair, he’s pretty great in it), he hated the movie. He had kinder words for the adaptation of Fear and Loathing that was released nearly two decades later, and became fast friends with Depp, who lived in Thompson’s home for four months while prepping the movie — studying him, driving his car, and borrowing his clothes. The men were friends for the rest of Thompson’s life, and when the writer took his own life in 2005, Depp paid for the elaborate funeral (in which Thompson’s ashes were shot out of a custom cannon, per his wishes).

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