Starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, capturing the insane madness of Hunter S. Thompson’s literacy classic was the challenge that director Terry Gilliam (12 Monkeys) openly embraced. “Buy The Ticket. Take The Ride!”
“When a writing assignment lands journalist Raoul Duke (Depp) and sidekick Dr. Gonzo (Del Toro) in Las Vegas, they decide to make it the ultimate business trip. But before long, business is forgotten and trip has become the key word. Fuelled by a suitcase full of mind-bending pharmaceuticals, Duke and Gonzo set off on a fast and furious ride through nonstop neon, surreal surroundings and a crew of the craziest characters ever. But no matter where misadventure leads them, Duke and Gonzo discover that sometimes going too far is the only way to go.”
The novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is based on two trips that Hunter S. Thompson took in 1971 with attorney and Chicano activist Oscar Zeta Acosta. The first trip resulted from an exposé Thompson was writing for Rolling Stone magazine about the Mexican-American television journalist Rubén Salazar. Officers of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had shot and killed him with a tear gas grenade fired at close range during the National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War in 1970. Acosta was a central source and the two needed a more comfortable place to discuss the story. They decided to take advantage of a Sports Illustrated magazine offer to write photograph captions for the annual Mint 400 desert race being held in Las Vegas.
Hunter S. Thompson himself shaved Johnny Depp’s head. They were in Thompson’s kitchen, Depp refused to look in a mirror, and Thompson wore a miner’s hard hat. While Hunter S. Thompson developed a strong friendship with Johnny Depp and heartily approved of his performance, he once said that if he ever saw anyone acting the way Depp does in the film, he would probably hit them with a chair. Prior to filming, Johnny Depp swapped his car for Hunter S. Thompson’s red Chevrolet convertible and spent weekends driving it around California in preparation for the role. Meanwhile, Thompson spent that period in Depp’s car with a woman named Heidi, writing an essay called “Fear And Loathing In Hollywood: My Doomed Love At The Taco Stand” that was partially published in Time Magazine.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas includes cameo appearances by Cameron Diaz, Christina Ricci, Gary Busey, Flea and many others.
Multi award winning British illustrator Ralph Steadman (you may recognize his illustrations from off-licence Oddbins’ catalogues) did the original illustrations for the book and the typeface of the credits is based on his handwriting. Hitchhiker Tobey Maguire wears a T-shirt with a Ralph Steadman picture on it in the film and a strange looking cactus designed by Ralph Steadman appears many times in the background of the movie. Gilliam complained of having to lug it around wherever they went.
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