Benicio Del Toro: Drinking Rules
The Academy Award–winning actor talks about drinking beer, Hunter S. Thompson, and hangovers.
Do you prefer beer in a glass or in a bottle? “Bottle. Just because it’s more convenient. It’s a straight line from the bottle to me. There are no pit stops. No changing of planes.”
What is your ideal beer temperature? “Cold. I can drink coffee if it’s room temperature, but beer’s got to be cold.”
Do you believe in the old adage of beer before liquor? “I believe in not mixing. When you start mixing, you’re walking yourself to a headache.”
What is your personal hangover cure? “Those days are gone for me. But perhaps the one thing that worked was drinking water. There might be moments that you celebrate something and you’re with friends and you might go a little bit past that line— those [times] are fun. I live in L.A., too, where you have to drive, so you got to be very conscientious about that. There are limits.”
Is your home set up for easy entertaining? “I got a fridge and a living room.”
Are your friends like mine and insist on hanging out in the kitchen? “Always the kitchen. I spent time with Hunter S. Thompson, the writer, and his office was in the kitchen and it was because of that. Everybody hangs out by the kitchen, so he made his office [there]. Really smart.”
Did you learn anything else while drinking with him? “Ice. It was important to have ice. If he ordered a drink or a beer or whatever, he ordered a bucket of ice. He kept everything cold. His glasses would be filled with ice.”
Do you have ice at home? “I do have some ice. If you come to my house and you need some ice I can provide it—[but] probably not as much as Hunter could provide.”
Spending time with him must have been amazing. “Not necessarily because of the drinking, but as a writer, as an artist…His generation. What he lived through. The way he retained everything, politics. He was quite a person. He would sit down and listen.”
How much time did you get with him? “I spent as much time as I could. Getting to know him, I drove him a little nuts. Picking his brain to understand the character [of Dr. Gonzo in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas] I was playing. Both Johnny [Depp] and I spent a lot of time hanging from his coattails, so to speak.”
Is it ever appropriate to drink shots? “It all depends who’s your company. Depends how your day went. Depends what tomorrow will bring. If I drink, I don’t like to leave reality. When I was younger, I would leave reality completely. By that I mean like you’re upside down. I can enjoy a drink with limits and there is a true art to that. A little bit is good and makes me feel good and not lose control—or be upside down.”
When did you first try alcohol? “The first time I tried alcohol was from my uncle. I must have been a kid and he gave it to me to taste. And I didn’t like it. It was beer. I don’t remember what beer. I would like to say it was in a green bottle. But I don’t remember.”
Benicio Del Toro can be seen in the upcoming film Weightless and in next year’s Star Wars: Episode VIII. He also currently stars in a Heineken beer advertising campaign.
Interview has been condensed and edited.