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Knife fights and personal transformation

I’m officially excited. My personal book of the year, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, is about to be made into a movie. Hang on a minute—just how many books have I read in the last year?

Johnny DeppThe answer to that is besides the point, as is the fact that Shantaram is some four years old now, not to mention approximately twenty years in the writing. What matter accuracy in the world of adaptation to screen?

For those unfortunate enough not have read this epic of knife fighting and personal transformation, the following over the top, self-penned book review would be a good place to start, although page number one of Shantaram, from which the following is taken, would be even better:

“It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.”

The film rights to the novel were brought by actor and embodiment of cool Johnny Depp, who narrowly beat real life Australian hard-man and wanna-be criminal Russell Crowe (he’s a Kiwi actually) in a bidding war for the story of an Australia prison escapee who found redemption in the heart of India.

Roberts relates the following about meeting Depp for the first time after the movie rights were secured:

After making the successful bid for the movie rights to Shantaram, Johnny Depp invited me to visit him in London. Took me a nanosecond, yaar, to pack a grip and pick up the First Class ticket he left for me at the British Airways desk in Melbourne. A limo picked me up at Heathrow and dropped me at a superb boutique hotel, The Baglioni, near Kensington High Street (Oh yes, Mr. Depp is very definitely a Class Act).

When I met the man himself, he was kitted out for the Willie Wonka role in Tim Burton’s refacimento of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate factory. He looked surreal: a crimson Valiant vision of velvet-elegance with a hint of mischief’s menace in the electronic smile (you’ll see what I mean, when the movie releases in 005). Then he shook my hand – warm, strong, painter-musician grip – and took 90 seconds to set me free in the mansion of his heart.

What can I tell you? All of Johnny’s fans ( a considerable number of them have contacted me in recent weeks) will be delighted but not surprised to hear that he’s just about the nicest guy on the goddamn planet. He’s generous, considerate, modest, brave, intelligent, good-hearted, creative, funny, gentle, wise, loving, loyal, hard-working, and almost unbearably cool.

Watching him work, on the set of Tim Burton’s C and the CF, was an education in itself. The total professional, Johnny puts passion and intensity into every take, and is always in the moment. No less important, it seemed to me, was the way that he brought so much affectionate communication to every other actor in each scene, and extended that warmth to every member of the crew. It was a happy, positive set, and I put that down to Johnny’s art, and his good heart, and to the sensitive brilliance of his friend, the wonderful Tim Burton.

Shantaram the movie is due to released in 2008, and will be directed by Indian director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding). Johnny Depp, whom you just know will somehow manage to look cool in a handle-bar moustache, will star and produce.

In the absence of a trailer being available to watch, we’re going to have to be content for now with a video of the author talking about his experiences living in a Bombay slum:

12 Comments

  • Shardul
    Posted May 19, 2007 12:29 am 0Likes

    Great to see this clip John – thanks for posting it. Heard a lot of this guy and read patches of the book, but it’s nice to see him talk. – Shardul.

  • Sumangali
    Posted May 19, 2007 3:45 am 0Likes

    I know I won’t have got round to reading this book by 2008 despite being very inspired (some time ago now) by your review, so I’m glad I’ve got a film to look forward to. Mira Nair and Johnny Depp (as long as he’s not putting on too strong an accent) definitely get my vote.

    “He’s generous, considerate, modest, brave, intelligent, good-hearted, creative, funny, gentle, wise, loving, loyal, hard-working, and almost unbearably cool.”

    Anyone who can be that nice about another human being must be a jolly good egg. As Sri Chinmoy says:

    “Only beauty within can appreciate beauty without.”

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted May 19, 2007 11:19 am 0Likes

    Shardul, it certainly is nice to hear Roberts talk—you can tell almost instantly from his voice that he’s a“jolly good egg.” 😀

    Sumangali, I should also admit that it may be 2008 before I read Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, as so brilliantly reviewed by yourself some time ago now. I do wish however that I had remembered your recommendation to steer clear of the 1950s Samurai Trilogy films based on the novel, all three of which I just acquired a copy of the other day…

    Yes, it’s true that Johnny Depp’s English accent, as seen in the Pirates films, still needs a little work, although I’m sure the far less refined Australian twang will be a little easier to master 😉

    And an outstanding quote—which leads me to… but no, I’d better stop now, and start writing my next post.

  • alf
    Posted May 19, 2007 10:08 pm 0Likes

    I just watched this clip and thought it was excellent. I have read the book but the end did disappoint me to be honest and that kind of stuck with me.

    Depp was awesome as Wonka, although to truly appreciate his performance it helps if you are slightly off beam yourself I reckon.

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted May 20, 2007 8:46 am 0Likes

    I’ve appreciated Johnny Depp since his 21 Jump St days, a time long, long ago, which in computer terms saw me programming in Basic (10 print “hello”; 20 goto 10 anyone?) and loading games from tape, and in non-computer terms, well, I had just begun High School, so I’m sure you can imagine the rest. All of which is to neither confirm nor deny the fact that I might be slightly off-beam…

  • O-Geek
    Posted April 12, 2008 2:35 pm 0Likes

    Glad to see this clip. thanks for this post.
    I like Depp. He was awesome as Wonka. – O-Geek.

    O-Geek’s last blog post..Discovering Personal Transformation and Self Esteem

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted April 12, 2008 4:12 pm 0Likes

    Hey thanks Ronny-O! Nice looking personal transformation blog you have there. The squirrels in Wonka were my favourite, although Depp is a long-time favourite film-star.

    Jaitra Gillespie’s last blog post..Beijing says “Too much tricky” to Chinglish

  • Computer Forum
    Posted July 23, 2008 12:23 am 0Likes

    Amazing article! Detailed and very interested. I am going to recommend this blog to my friends.

  • Calum
    Posted July 25, 2008 10:19 am 0Likes

    My friends will find out about this amazing article! Thanks!

  • pavitrata
    Posted March 15, 2009 1:10 pm 0Likes

    Wow! What a guy! I like that quote towards the end: ‘The contours of all our virtues are shaped by our adversity.’

    Words to live by!

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted March 15, 2009 1:29 pm 0Likes

    Thanks for reading Pavitrata. I’m already getting the shakes and cravings waiting not only for the film adaptation, but parts two and three of Roberts’ life story.

    It does pose the question though. are the contours of our adversities shaped by our virtue?

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