Johnny Depps relationship with Hunter S Thompson underscores his performance in The Rum Diaries.

One of the great things about the arts is that one can find a mentor in one field who may never know he or she inspired anyone at all. A brilliant recent cover story of a popular men’s magazine painted that picture clearly.

Soul music innovator D’Angelo, finally back in the spotlight after a dozen years, told the magazine about his “relationship” with the legendary Marvin Gaye.

D’Angelo was just eight when Gaye was fatally shot by his own father, and said he began to have dreams about the musician from that day.

These dreams where always of D’Angelo following Gaye in some or other way, and you can make of that what you will, but it’s no wonder D’Angelo has often been called the one chosen to carry the soul baton.

Because D’Angelo never knew Gaye, it may be hard for some to understand how Gaye could be such a powerful force in his life.

Until they take a look at the relationship between Johnny Depp and Hunter S Thompson who, unlike the soul kings, knew each other very well. Depp stars as Thompson in The Rum Diary, a movie adaptation of a novel written by the legendary scribe.

Most people know Thompson as the cooky character who is the father of gonzo journalism. But few know that when Thompson died in 2005, it was Depp who paid for all the funeral arrangements.

It was Depp who shot one of Thompson’s firearms into a home-made bomb to earn the older man’s trust in the wee hours of the morning that they met. It was Depp who made sure that The Rum Diary saw the light of day.

Word has it that after Depp portrayed Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in the late 1990s, the young man found The Rum Diary manuscript that Thompson had no intention of ever getting to the public eye.

Soon after that, Thompson agreed that his manuscript, which had been written in the 1960s, could be published (in 1998) and even turned into a film, but only if Depp was the one to play the journalist.

Aside from both being born in Kentucky, it seems that the pair really had a lot in common.

One of those things was a love for guns, the other was an appreciation for good literature.

Perhaps Thompson saw himself in Depp, who knows? In the powerfully frank words of Immortal Technique: you don’t know s*** about a dead man’s perspective. What we do know is what Depp tells reporters.

Last year, in a piece for Newsweek Magazine, Depp wrote: “I was of the mind where I knew the wrong thing to do was to try to keep up with Hunter in any capacity.”

He may not try to keep up with the legend, but the actor has done a very good job of keeping Thompson’s legacy alive.

* Catch Depp in The Rum Diary from this weekend.