On Monday, October 17, 2011 the one and only megastar/actor Johnny Depp graced the UC Berkeley campus with a special appearance at Wheeler Hall for an advanced screening of his film, The Rum Diary. Based on the story by Hunter S. Thompson (which is loosely based on his life), the Berkeley campus was one of the first to see the film. What compelled Cal to receive this special event was Thompson’s love for the Bay Area and Depp and director Bruce Robinson’s wish to pay homage to Thompson.
News first spread about the event the Thursday before the event (10/13/11) when Media Studies majors got an announcement about it, since the organizers were keen on having them attend the screening. However, it was open to any student, staff and faculty associated with the campus, as long as they RSVP’ed through an email address. News didn’t really spread until the day of the event, when everyone (or so it seemed) got word of his appearance and immediately tried to attend the event. I began waiting in line around 3:30PM (the event was to start at 7:30) in fear that there’d be a large waiting crowd, but surprisingly there weren’t many people waiting around. Nobody was certain what was going on and where the line started or even whether there was a line. At around 5, organizers for the event appeared and ordered everyone to wait in line outside, which caused a huge frenzy of running students and disorientation.
My main intention in all honesty was just to see Johnny Depp. I hadn’t heard anything about this film or even seen any promos/ads, although a free movie wasn’t anything I’d complain about. So even though the event was highly disorganized and everyone was scrambling around, seeing Johnny Depp kept me motivated to put up with all the mess. After a long delay, people were finally beginning to be admitted into the theater sometime after 8. I was so glad I got seats right up front with all my friends, and regardless of whether photos were allowed or not, I was going to do all it took to at least get one!
The moderator for the screening and subsequent Q&A with Depp and the director Robinson was journalist Ben Fong-Torres, who came up on stage and announced the start of the film. Everyone clapped and knew that we were one movie away from seeing Johnny. The movie itself was not very enjoyable. I honestly don’t know if the day’s stress finally got to me, but I had a headache the whole time and was so close to falling asleep. The film had a few comedic scenes (particularly one involving Johnny sitting on his friend’s lap while driving a car over some bumpy roads) and an intriguing love triangle, but that quickly fizzled out and died, along with another story plot involving buying an island and using it for retail and tourist profit (or something like that). It was simply way too confusing and discombobulated for my taste. It was also really long. I thought it’d never end! All I can say is I was so happy once it was over. I asked my large group of friends who came with me, I asked a dozen or so people I met while I was waiting in line and I overhead many people after the event, and the general consensus I got was that they too didn’t enjoy the film too much.
After the film, the moment had finally arrived. Johnny Depp walked out onstage to a rousing applause. I couldn’t believe how close I was too him and that I was actually seeing him in person. I don’t really get starstruck, but my God, I was even shaking when he came out! Once everyone got over his appearance, a Q&A session began where students walked up to a microphone and got to pose their dying questions about the film. Sadly, most of the questions were really disappointing (including a really long-drawn out one about a boom microphone) and didn’t relate to the film.
After the Q&A, Johnny walked offstage and everyone ran towards the stage to get to touch him. My roommate and friend who were with me shook his hand but I was too concerned trying to get photos that I missed my chance (not too bummed, though). Afterwards we all headed out and left home and got some much needed rest and a chance to pass out from the day’s adventure, though we couldn’t stop talking about the event for the rest of the night.
Today I found out that Depp actually attended the after party that was hosted at Shattuck Down Low, which I totally skipped because I didn’t think he’d actually be there himself. He also apparently signed autographs outside of Wheeler, which I also missed out on! Regardless, I am very happy I got into the event and got to stand right in front of him and snap some pictures. Despite the disorganization of the event, the long waits, the subpar film, and missing out on a chance to see Johnny perform with his band, it was all worth it to have seen the actor in person.
– Jose Vera