Giovanni Ribisi Thinks It Through
By Michael Ventre
Ambitious projects such as The Rum Diary and loopy characters like Moberg (his inebriated lunatic role in the film) are what Giovanni Ribisi is all about as an actor. The just-released movie—an adaptation of a long-lost Hunter S. Thompson novel—presented an appetizing and fulfilling opportunity to work with members of cinematic nobility such as Johnny Depp and writer-director Bruce Robinson, but it also brought a sense of responsibility. “[Hunter] was a dear friend of Johnny’s,” says Ribisi of the famed “Gonzo” journalist who took his own life in 2005, “and I didn’t want to encroach on that. I wanted to be respectful to the deceased for what he did and his general effect on society. He was such a massive juggernaut to ’60s counterculture. I guess there’s a certain hue that is indelible to the planet because of Hunter S. Thompson.”
Ribisi’s involvement in The Rum Diary is at least tangentially due to his brief appearance in another Depp picture, Michael Mann’s gangster epic Public Enemies, and one of those casual pacts actors often make when they realize they’re kindred spirits. “[Depp and I] talked a little,” says Ribisi, “and there was an allusion to, ‘We gotta do something else together.’”
The Ribisi Way
Since 1998, when Ribisi attracted kudos for his performance in Saving Private Ryan, he has operated in rarefied company. He is also best known for his roles in Boiler Room, Gone in 60 Seconds, and Avatar. But soon Ribisi will add to that canon with a part in Contraband alongside Mark Wahlberg (out in January 2012) and the ensemble piece Gangster Squad (to be released in October 2012) with Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling. Additionally, in July 2012 he will be seen in one of the most-anticipated comedies in recent memory, Seth MacFarlane’s Ted, also starring Wahlberg, about a teddy bear (voiced by MacFarlane) who comes to life and over time devolves into a smoking, crass delinquent.
Overall Ribisi, who turns 37 next month, has put together an enviable cache of credits, which indicates he is as adept at selecting roles as he is at nailing them. “An actor’s talent is due largely to his choices,” he says. “You try to be involved with people you respect.”
On The Rum Diary, Ribisi said he was tickled to work with Oscar-nominee Robinson (The Killing Fields). “Bruce Robinson’s writing is so intellectual, like razor blades,” says Ribisi. For him, a character’s drunken sashay through an irreverent newspaper tale set in Puerto Rico, from lines penned by peerless storytellers, is just another passionate stopover on a Thompson-esque journey. “You had to kind of dive in and just unabashedly live in it,” he says of this film. “It’s so literary. You had to swim in it.”
photography by davis factor; styling by ali dariotis; grooming by riawna capri at the wall group; tuxedo, dolce & gabbana, 147 S. Robertson Blvd., LA; shirt, gucci, 347 N. Rodeo Dr ., Beverly Hills; tie, christian dior, 315 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.