The godfather of gonzo journalism would have celebrated 75 years today
“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold … ”
These are the words of Hunter S. Thompson, the godfather of gonzo journalism.
More specifically, it’s the opening line of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream,” the dark, drug-addled novel that spawned one of the trippiest movies ever made.
Known for his boundless curiosity, iconoclastic attitude expressive, psychedelic prose, Hunter shared his cynical, singular worldview –shaped by a lifelong disdain for authority figures and decades of drug and alcohol use — in countless books and articles, including “Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs” and “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72.” By the time of his death in 2005, he had left an indelible mark on the writing world.
In honor of the 75th anniversary of his birth, here are four films that explore the life and legacy of Hunter S. Thompson.
“Where the Buffalo Roam” (1980)
Hunter S. Thompson’s friendship with Chicano attorney and activist Oscar Zeta Acosta inspired this surreal slapstick comedy starring Bill Murray as the journalist and Peter Boyle as his pal. Although a valiant attempt, this film falls fairly short of the writer’s oddball brilliance.
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998)
Terry Gilliam’s mind-bending fantasy finds Johnny Depp doing his best Hunter impression as Thompson alter-ego Raoul Duke. Together with Dr. Gonzo (Benecio Del Toro), he sets out in search of the American dream. Cameos by the likes of Ellen Barkin, Gary Busey, Tobey Maguire, Cameron Diaz and Christina Ricci make this cult classic an unusual treat.
“Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson” (2008)
Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” “Taxi to the Dark Side”) takes an affectionate look at Thompson’s life in this documentary, narrated by Depp. Although some of the storytelling devices are pretty cheesy, there’s plenty of great interview footage here featuring the man and his friends.
“The Rum Diary” (2011)
Based on Thompson’s semi-autobiographical first novel, “The Rum Diary” follows struggling writer Paul Kemp (Depp again), who lands a job at an English-language newspaper in Puerto Rico. There, he forms a friendship with photographer Sala (Michael Rispoli) and falls for Chenault (Amber Heard), the girlfriend of an unscrupulous developer (Aaron Eckhart). Gorgeous scenery and a scene-stealing turn by Giovanni Ribisi can’t quite save this rambling movie.
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