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At one point John Cusack was almost cast Cusack had previously directed the play version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas , with his brother playing Duke. Thompson met with Johnny Depp he became convinced that no one else could play him. When Cox and Davies started writing the screenplay, Depp and del Toro committed to starring in the film. Gilliam said in an interview that his films are actor-led, the performance of the two characters in Fear and Loathing is hyper realistic but truthful: "I am interested in real people in bizarre, twisted environments that force them to act Gonzo is based on Thompson's friend Oscar Zeta Acosta , who disappeared sometime in He was the "Chicano lawyer" notorious for his party binges.
The lead actors undertook extraordinary preparations for their respective roles. Not only is [the book] true, but there's more. And it was worse. During pre-production, Cox and producer Laila Nabulsi had "creative differences" and she forced Rhino to choose between her and Cox. We sort of cannibalized the book.
Grisoni remembers, "I'd sit at the keyboard, and we'd talk and talk and I'd keep typing. Gonzo and the waitress of the North Star Coffee Lounge. The director said, "This is two guys who have gone beyond the pale, this is unforgivable — that scene, it's ugly. My approach, rather than to throw it out, was to make that scene the low point.
Initially, the studio wanted Gilliam to update the book for the s, which he considered, "And then I looked at the film and said, 'No, that's apologizing. I don't want to apologize for this thing.
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It is what it is. If it's an accurate representation of that book, which I thought was an accurate representation of a particular time and place and people. By keeping it set in the 70's, using the backdrop of the Vietnam War and a perceived loss of the American dream , offers reasoning to the characters actions. When the film approached release, Gilliam learned that the Writers Guild of America WGA would not allow Cox and Davies to be removed from the credits even though none of their material was used in the production of the film. The director said, "But there have been at least five previous attempts at adapting the book, and they all come from the book.
They all use the same scenes. As a director, I was automatically deemed a 'production executive' by the guild and, by definition, discriminated against. But for Tony to go without any credit would be really unfair. When this changed in early May after the WGA revised its decision and gave credit to Gilliam and Grisoni first and Cox and Davies second, the short was not needed. According to Gilliam, there was no firm budget in place when filming started.
I'm not going to name names but it was a strange film, like one leg was shorter than the other. There was all sorts of chaos. He warned Depp, "Be careful or you'll find yourself ten years from now still doing him… Make sure your next role is some drastically different guy. Shooting on location in Las Vegas began on August 3, and lasted 56 days.
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The production ran into problems when they wanted to shoot in a casino. They were only allowed to film between two and six in the morning, given only six tables to put extras around and insisted that the extras really gamble. Hollywood soundstage. According to the cinematographer, this footage heightened the film's "already otherworldly tone an extra notch.
Nicola Pecorini was hired based on an audition reel he sent Gilliam that made fun of the fact that he had only one eye he lost the other to retinal cancer. For the desert scenes, Pecorini wanted a specific, undefined quality without a real horizon to convey the notion that the landscape never ended and to emphasize "a certain kind of unreality outside the characters' car, because everything that matters to them is within the Red Shark.
During production, it was Gilliam's intention that it should feel like a drug trip from beginning to end. The drug kicks in and you're on speed! You get the buzz — it's crazy, it's outrageous, the carpet's moving and everybody's laughing and having a great time. But then, ever so slowly, the walls start closing in and it's like you're never going to get out of this fucking place. It's an ugly nightmare and there's no escape.
Pecorini and Gilliam decided they wanted the film to be shot wide-angle but because of the small budget they couldn't afford the downfalls of anamorphic lenses so they paired the Arriflex , Arri BL-4S and the Arri iii with a set of Zeiss Standard Primes and Kodak's D Vision filmstock in order to achieve the saturated look the film has. The music belongs to the psychedelic rock and classic rock genre. The soundtrack contains songs used in the film with sound bites of the film before each song.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas underwent preview test screenings — a process that Gilliam does not enjoy.
I know the pressure from the studio is, 'somebody didn't like that, change it! Apparently it all came flooding back to him, he was reliving the whole trip! He was yelling out and jumping on his seat like it was a roller coaster, ducking and diving, shouting 'SHIT! It's not my show, but I appreciated it. Depp did a hell of a job.
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His narration is what really held the film together, I think. If you hadn't had that, it would have just been a series of wild scenes. If I'm going to be disappointed, it's because it doesn't make any waves, that people are not outraged. By the time Fear and Loathing was released as a Criterion Collection DVD in , Thompson showed his approval of the Gilliam version by recording a full-length audio commentary for the film and participating in several DVD special features.
On an audio commentary track in the Criterion edition of the DVD, Gilliam expresses great pride in the film and says it was one of the few times where he did not have to fight extensively with the studio during the filming.
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However, he does express frustration with the advertising campaign used during its initial release, which he says tried to sell it as wacky comedy. Vintage Press reported an initial reprint of , copies to tie in with the film's release, but demand was higher than expected and forced the novel to go back to print a further five times.
Gilliam wanted to provoke strong reactions to his film as he said in an interview, "I want it to be seen as one of the great movies of all time, and one of the most hated movies of all time. The site's critical consensus calls the film "visually creative, but also aimless, repetitive, and devoid of character development. Thompson's images don't begin to match the surreal ferocity of the author's language. Little episodes of no particular import come and go But the movie is too grotesque to be entered emotionally.
Gene Siskel 's "thumbs-up" review at the time also noted the film successfully captured the book's themes into film, adding "What the film is about and what the book is about is using Las Vegas as a metaphor for — or a location for — the worst of America, the extremes of America, the money obsession, the visual vulgarity of America. It's the sense that Gilliam, like Thompson, is always totally in command of the medium, while abandoning himself utterly to unpredictable forces beyond his control.
Andrew Johnston , writing in Time Out New York , observed: " Fear is really a Rorschach test of a movie — some people will see a godawful mess, rendered inaccessible by the stumbling handheld camera and Depp's nearly incomprehensible narration. Others will see a freewheeling comedy, a thinking person's Cheech and Chong film. It all depends on your mood, expectations and state of mind for the record, I was stone sober and basically enjoyed myself.
The increased attention for the film has also led to some news outlets to reconsider the mixed original reception of the film; Scott Tobias of The A.
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Club argued in his more recent review of the film that "the film would have had a greater impact had it been produced at the time, when Brewster McCloud proved that anything was possible, but short of a time machine, Gilliam does what he can to bring the era back to life. The film was nominated for a variety of awards that both praised and condemned it. Gonzo was also nominated for the worst supporting actor.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Theatrical release poster. Johnny Depp Benicio del Toro. Rhino Films Summit Entertainment. Thompson as himself. Las Vegas Sun. Texas Monthly. Retrieved 29 August Retrieved 15 December Retrieved 10 July The New York Times. Retrieved 4 January Los Angeles Times. The Guardian.
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