"And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around
us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats,
all swooping and screeching and diving around the car,
which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the
top down to Las Vegas..."
and Loathing in Las Vegas
Gonzo and Duke as drawn by Terry Gilliam
premiered at Cannes in May 1998,
where the movie was In Competition. It was released across
the States on 22 May (head to head with Godzilla
The film is based on the book of the same name by Hunter S.
Thompson. It is "a savage dissection of the American dream"
- journalist Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr Gonzo enter Las
Vegas armed with an arsenal of heinous chemicals, as knights
of old buckled on armour of supernatural power. Taking the
roles of Thompson and his attorney are Johnny Depp and Benicio
Fear and Loathing
's budget was around $20million -
largely funded by Universal, who also distributed 12 Monkeys
in the States, despite the very public battle the studio had
with Gilliam over Brazil
in the mid-eighties.
As Gilliam told Dreams
in 1997, "I hope it makes a
noise - I donít want it to go unnoticed. A lot of people will
get angry but theyíll probably get angry for the wrong reasons
though. I actually donít think itís a drugs movie, strangely
enough - if you make a film where people are at a bar drinking
and smoking a lot, you donít say itís an alcoholicsí movie,
or a smokersí movie. Itís not about that. The fuel may be
drugs just like in other movies, with Sam Spade the fuel may
be alcohol and cigarettes. What we do is allow our characters
to get caught in a distorted world, which is already distorted
by reality. We make it an altered reality which may be for
the better and sometimes for the worse, depending on how much
you have just imbibed."
Other Dreams pages...
In Spring 1997, independent Rhino Films was developing Fear
and Loathing in Las Vegas
the movie, based on Hunter S.
Thompson's classic text. Alex Cox was down as director, having
written a script with Tod Davies. Johnny Depp and Benicio
del Toro were on board the project. However, due to "creative
differences", Cox left the project and Rhino Films was left
without a director. In April 1997, Terry Gilliam had no deal
in place to make The Defective Detective
and was considering
other projects. In a matter of weeks, Rhino Films announced
that Gilliam was to join the project. A Gilliam directed movie
was a different prospect to a Cox movie, and the budget increased
somewhat. "With Gilliam directing, we'll see the bats!", said
Gilliam is quoted on the official website as saying, "Fear
has been hunting me down for some years.
About 10 years ago a script turned up and I thought 'Oh, wouldn't
this be an intersting film to start the 90s off', but at the
time I was busy doing something else and let it go. But then
the project turned up again and I was reminded how funny and
outrageous the book is."
Gilliam then set to work furiously on a script with Tony Grisoni.
A script was put together in 8 days, and a rewrite was completed
in two days. The final screenwriting credit in the movie goes
to Gilliam, Grisoni, Cox and Davies.
S. Thompson and Johnny Depp
enjoy a drink while preparing for filming...
Gilliam inherited the role of director from Alex Cox, both
Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro were linked to the project.
Gilliam has raved about Depp's performance, describing it
as "phenomenal". Contrary to rumours which
suggested that Depp and Gilliam didn't get on, Gilliam said
that he and Johnny had a great time while shooting the film.
Gilliam also assembled a considerable array of well-known
actors in cameo roles... Ellen Barkin, Gary Busey, Cameron
Diaz, Flea, Mark Harmon, Lyle Lovett, Tobey Maguire, Christina
Ricci, Harry Dean Stanton and Tim Thomerson.
Returning to a Gilliam project are Katherine Helmond and Michael
Jeter. Katherine Helmond will be familiar to Gilliam fans,
since she gave him two wonderful performances as Mrs Ogre
in Time Bandits
and Mrs Lowry in Brazil
this one, she has a small role as a hotel receptionist who
turns into a moray eel. Michael Jeter was in The Fisher
, playing the memorable damsel in distress in Central
Park. Also featured is Gilliam's friend Ray Cooper who took
roles in Brazil
Hunter S. Thompson too has a cameo role in the movie. He gave
considerable help to the production, most notably the time
he spent with Johnny in preparing for the role, and gained
a creative consultant
credit on the movie. Says Gilliam,
"Hunter was on the end of the phone quite a bit. What was
the most useful thing was that Johnny spent a lot of time
with him. And basically stole a lot of his clothing and his
car which were then used in the movie!"
Terry Gilliam on the set of Fear and Loathing
Following Gilliam's announcement as Fear and Loathing's
director in early April 2007, later that month Gilliam was
touring locations in and around Las Vegas. Shooting in Las
Vegas eventually began in early August and finished the
same month. For more information, see the Dreams
F&L press cuttings page. Shooting
in the U.S. was complete by November and post production
was underway in London by the end of the year.
The movie's soundtrack is described as "an audio assault
of great rock of the early 70s, mixed with Vegas lounge
tunes", and will be available on Geffen records. The original
music was composed by Tomoyasu Hotei and Ray Cooper.
The test screening for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
was on 30 March 1998 at the Cineplex Odeon in Universal
City, CA. Dreams reader Vince Cadena was there
and sent the following account of the experience...
"I got the tickets when I was at the mall to see the re-release
of Grease. A man came up to me and asked me if I
would like to see a screening of a movie from the director
Terry Gilliam. I blurted out, 'Fear and Loathing in Las
Vegas?', and he actually had to double check and was
surprised I was right. I went to the theater in City Walk
right by Universal Stuios in Southern California.
"When I got in the theater, not much happened until Terrry
got there. He seemed very happy, calm and seemed to be enjoying
himself though people would come up to him now and then.
I myself did not have a chance to talk to him but he was
friendly to everyone who came up to him. The movie started
and when the title came up everyone applauded. The opening
scene has Johnny Depp and his on screen attorney driving
through the desert, and oh, you see the bats. Later, when
they walk into the hotel they go into a bar and at first
it's just people but they turn into reptiles. A number of
cameos came up during the movie - the one that got my attention
was when Hunter S. Thompson himself appeared and the whole
audience that knew it was him laughed. During the movie,
people not familiar with Terry's work left - I guess it
was too much for them. At the end of the film when Terry's
name came on the screen eveyone applauded. Fear and Loathing
is possibly Terry Gilliam's best film."
Gilliam at the US premiere with daughters Amy and