Bruce Robinson, the director and writer of the black comedy Withnail and I and the cult classic How to Get Ahead in Advertising and the screenwriter and director of a new film The Rum Diary, starring Johnny Depp, claims not to be a director.
"If you're a film director you should probably, from time to time, direct a film and I hadn't directed one for 18 years," he says, playing with a plastic nicotine inhaler and rubbing his left knee, which he twisted when walking ("I fell down a rabbit hole," he says, enigmatically).
Robinson's last foray into directing, in 1992, was Jennifer Eight, a poorly received thriller that went straight to video in the UK. This might explain his reluctance to accept when Depp asked him to adapt and direct The Rum Diary, which is based on the book of the same name by Hunter S Thompson. It tells the story of a young journalist (Depp) who joins a newspaper in Puerto Rico and is drawn into corruption and chaos.
"Johnny's enthusiasm persuaded me," Robinson says of his star. "He eased the process. I had no studios nagging away and the reason I'd quit was because of that."
Withnail and I is based on Robinson's experiences as an impoverished actor. "There's a lot of Withnailesque stuff in the Rum film," he says. "It's aggressive comedy with no jokes."
Even 24 years after it was released, Withnail is still fresh. Robinson says: "Squalor never ages. Indeed the emotional underpinning of Withnail doesn't change. We all have to go through that horrible transition of facing up to growing up."
Read Anthony Quinn's review of The Rum Diary here.
Bruce Robinson will be speaking at the Encounters International Film Festival, in association with Directors UK, in Bristol on Thursday 17th November.