Video Release: April 1, 2014
Rating: R (MPAA)
Studio: Criterion Collection
- Runtime: 119 minutes
- NTSC (Canada and USA)
- Originally in English
Director Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python/Brazil/12 Monkeys fame) skillfully interprets Hunter S. Thompson's novel in a psychedelic haze of imagery. Sent to Las Vegas to cover the Mint 400, a desert motorcycle race, gonzo journalist Dr. Thompson (Depp) and his attorney (Del Toro) find themselves in the town where only powerful drugs can make things seem slightly normal. One pharmaceutical bender after another do not make this film a condemnation of today's drug culture but rather a glimpse into the psyche of one of America's truly free spirits.
Theatrical release: May 22, 1998.
Filmed on location in Las Vegas, southern Nevada, and Los Angeles and at Warner Hollywood Studios.
The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival on May 15, 1998.
Estimated budget: $21 million.
Thompson's book was based on a trip he took with Oscar Zeta Acosta.
Benicio Del Toro gained nearly 40 pounds to play Dr. Gonzo.
Shooting lasted about 50 days.
One of the wardrobe production assistants was Amy Rainbow Gilliam, one of Terry's daughters.
The film includes music by Robert Goulet, Tom Jones, Combustible Edison, Big Brother & the Holding Company, the Lennon Sisters, Elmer Bernstein, Wayne Newton, the Yardbirds, Jefferson Airplane, Three Dog Night, Bob Dylan, the Youngbloods, Ohio Express, Buffalo Springfield, the Rolling Stones, Booker T. & the MGs, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Debbie Reynolds, and Dead Kennedys.
The illustrations are by Ralph Steadman, who illustrated the original novel; he is thanked in the credits "for inspiring us all." The shirt that Tobey Maguire wears in the film features a Steadman illustration.
Terry Gilliam took over from writer-director Alex Cox (REPO MAN), who left because of creative differences. Cox said, "With Gilliam directing, we'll see the bats."
Among the people interested in making a film of the book since it first came out were Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, and Ridley Scott.
Johnny Depp spent nearly four months together with Hunter S. Thompson prior to shooting. Depp told a Cannes press conference, "He was generous with his time and his private life. He even let me move into his basement. Become a termite."
At the Cannes press conference Gilliam said, "Number one, FEAR AND LOATHING is not a prodrug film. Anybody who sees this film isn't going to rush out and start to do drugs."
The Plymouth Valiant used in the film actually belonged to Thompson.
Thompson makes a cameo appearance in the film.
When Gilliam took over production from Cox, he and Tony Grisoni wrote a new script in eight days, then revised that in another two days.
Thompson referred to the film as a "lonely trumpet call over a lost battlefield."
At a New York City bookstore in May 1998, Gilliam burned his Writers Guild membership card because of a dispute over crediting Alex Cox and Tod Davies, who wrote the original script, which was not used.