Dreams: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

News and Features on Terry Gilliam's picture, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, released in 1998. Edited by Phil Stubbs.
"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..."

Gonzo and Duke as drawn by Terry Gilliam
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 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 del Toro.

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...

Production Notes 1 Official Production Notes - Introduction to the Picture
Production Notes 2 Official Production Notes - About the Text
Production Notes 3 Official Production Notes - Getting the Project Going
Production Notes 4 Official Production Notes - Location Photography
Production Notes 5 Official Production Notes - Studio Work
Production Notes 6 Official Production Notes - About the Cast
Production Notes 7 Official Production Notes - About the Crew
Fear and Loathing - the shoot Production press cuttings during the 1997 shoot
"I was in Fear and Loathing" Recollections from the Las Vegas set, written for Dreams by actor and writer Kris Kaneff
Terry Gilliam talks to Dreams ...during the post-production of Fear and Loathing
Gilliam's dispute over Fear and Loathing script credit Exclusive photographs from the night Gilliam burned his WGA membership card on Broadway
Fear and Loathing at Cannes Highlights from the 1998 Cannes press conference when the film was In Competition
Fear and Loathing at the Edinburgh Film Festival
A report and interview with Terry Gilliam at the British premiere of the film at the 1998 Edinburgh International Film Festival
Fear and Loathing - the UK release press conference
A transcript of the UK release press conference, by Ben Evans
Welcome to Bat Country
Exclusive to Dreams - by JD Lafrance

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 Cox.

Gilliam is quoted on the official website as saying, "Fear and Loathing 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.

Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp
enjoy a drink while preparing for filming...
When 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 to Dreams 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... in this one, she has a small role as a hotel receptionist who turns into a moray eel. Michael Jeter was in The Fisher King, playing the memorable damsel in distress in Central Park. Also featured is Gilliam's friend Ray Cooper who took roles in Brazil and Munchausen.

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."

Terry Gilliam at the US premiere with daughters Amy and Holly
This Fear in Loathing in Las Vegas page contains a brief introduction to the film and links to other Dreams pages with a great deal of information about the movie and its release.

"There's a lot of shame attached to this movie, and we're all very sorry. We want to apologise in advance for whatever it is that we've done" -
Terry Gilliam

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