“Why is it that all the writers one admires are always arseholed?”
Bruce Robinson and I are already a bottle of wine each in when he asks this, which sort of proves his point. Since writing Withnail and I, Robinson has had plenty of admirers – not least Johnny Depp, who painted the oil portrait of Keith Richards smoking a joint hanging above us on Robinson’s living room wall. The canvas is made – and hopefully you can see the subtle motif here – entirely from Rizla papers.
There are, as Robinson points out, “no books in booze”, although that never stopped him looking. “I’ve been so drunk working I’ve typed with my nose,” he says. “But the point is, if you’re typing something worth reading, no one knows you typed it with your nose.”
When it works, it works. As well as Withnail, Robinson is best known for writing the BAFTA-winning, Oscar-nominated The Killing Fields in 1984, and for writing and directing – at Depp’s insistence – The Rum Diary in 2011. What’s less well known is that he’s spent much of the last 15 years on the trail of the true identity of Jack the Ripper – and he reckons he’s finally got his man.