I recently got the chance to talk to Bill Chott about his role in Johnny Depp’s new film, ‘The Rum Diary’. Here, Bill talks about how he got involved in the project in the first place and which three people he would invite to dinner…
Hey Bill. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘The Rum Diary’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
The film is about a young journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) who leaves behind the States searching for adventure and journalistic challenge and an escape from America of the mid-20th century. He hopes to find a real story to bury himself in and find himself writing horoscopes for the newspaper and covering stories about characters like mine, an American Bowling Champ. My character symbolizes what Kemp calls “The Great White”. He despises the closed-minded and bloated American visitors. My character is an embodiment of that sentiment. He uncovers a real estate deal that is planning on taking advantage of an upcoming closing military base. His involvement in the deal compromises his ethical standards and he almost becomes what he hates the most.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play an American Bowling Champ who has just won the world bowling title. It seems that he comes to play in the tournament year after year and never leaves the hotel and casino. He stays in the closed-off tourist encampment and never ventures into the beautiful historic city of San Juan. His wife does the same and does a lot of duty-free shopping. We’re a reflection of the capitalist/imperialist mentality that Kemp has come to hate.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I got involved in the movie because of an audition I had done several weeks before I heard back from the production. At the time this film was shooting in Puerto Rico, the ‘Wizards Of Waverly Place’ movie was shooting there as well. I had forgotten all about ‘The Rum Diary’ audition. I was a recurring regular on ‘Wizards’ at the time. I got a call from my manager who said, “Guess who’s going to Puerto Rico?” And I said, “Oh great, Mr. Laritate is jointing the ‘Wizards Of Waverly Place’ movie! When I found out that I’d be in a scene with Johnny Depp, I got EVEN MORE excited! I wound up socializing with my ‘Wizards’ cast mates and even shot a cameo for ‘Wizards’ that didn’t make it into the movie.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
This film is different because it starts with a general agreement that America isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And it goes against many American movie conventions. Bruce Robinson is great at breaking the form and straying from formula. It’s also an adaptation of a very popular book. For some, readers, it was their first Hunter S. Thompson book. So there’s an expectation that it not betray the style of the book.
The film stars Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli and Richard Jenkins – with Bruce Robinson onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
I mainly had the chance to work with Bruce Robinson, Lisa Robins – (who plays my wife), and I spoke briefly with Aaron Eckhart. Although my scene is with Depp, we weren’t in the same shot. His lines were shot after Lisa and I read our lines to someone off camera. Then Depp showed up and he read the lines by himself. My big scene with Johnny Depp, and I never met him!
Let’s talk a bit about you Bill. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
When I was a kid, I had no other life ambitions. I KNEW I had to perform. I used to sing in front of the mirror. Not just pretending to be a rock star, singing into my brush…but performing entire musicals to the soundtrack albums. I guess that’s one of the reasons I went into musical theatre. I started doing improv because I was a fan of SNL and SCTV as a kid. When I graduated college with a degree in communications with a theatre emphasis, I moved to Chicago and studied improv there. Now I teach improv with my Improv school and theater The Improv Trick in Los Angeles, Pasadena and St. Louis.
You’ve been in a number of different TV shows and films – who have been your favourite actors/actresses to work with so far?
I’ve worked with Tony Shalhoub on ‘Monk’, Tim Allen, Dana Carvey, Ashton Kutcher, Selena Gomez, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carrell, John Lithgow, Johnny Knoxville, and even one of my comedy heroes, John Cleese.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
I’m sorry to admit that I don’t have an I-Pod. But if I did, I’d have the Smithsonian collection of Jazz, which is currently on my laptop. I’m slow to advance with technology. I’m just now converting to Mac, so I’m sure I’ll have an I-Pod soon.
If you could invite three guests to dinner – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
I would choose John Candy, Stephen King and Don Rickles. John Candy is a big idol of mine for many years and I’ve heard that he was such a warm and generous person. I’d also like to talk with him about improvisation. Stephen King is my absolute favorite author and I’ve been reading his work for years, and when I’m on a road trip, I love to listen to his books on tape. I’m especially a big fan of his short stories. I want to meet Don Rickles before he passes away.
If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?
I wouldn’t be able to live without pencil and paper. Even when there’s nothing to read, I can entertain myself through drawing and writing. I like to write short stories, imaginary letters and when I draw I do cartoons and doodling. I’ve never had any formal art training, so most of my drawings amuse only me and my wife when I draw them on my refrigerator dry erase board.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
I’ve just finished shooting a movie called ‘Santa Pups’ which was shot in Fernie, BC. It was a really fun time at a ski lodge during a time of year when there was no snow. The production had to make snow on the ground and snow to fall on us during out scenes. I had never been in a fake snowstorm before. Cheryl Ladd plays Mrs. Claus and I play Mr. Holman, a baker who donates cookies to the orphans every year. I’m also doing a live musical version of ‘I Love Lucy’ at the Greenway Court Theater in LA. We’re planning on taking the show to Vegas in the spring.
Thanks for the interview!