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Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (1998, Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro)

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Journalist Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) is heading for Las Vegas to cover the 1971 Mint 400 Desert Race. His passengers are bloated Samoan attorney Dr Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) and, in the trunk, a collection of every narcotic known to man, neatly balanced with the finest alcohol. What follows is an epic journey of trashed hotel rooms, bongs and beautiful girls. Watching these two smoke, snort and trip their way round America is like drinking tea on a stag night, although by the end of this druggie odyssey, abstinence is rewarded.

When Alex Cox left the project after differences with the author Hunter S Thompson (who objected to Cox’s vegetarian, football-hating lifestyle), Gilliam stepped in and a tired rumour – that the ‘gonzo journalism’ cult classic would eventually be filmed – became reality, after 15 years of trying. The new director kept his distance from Thompson, whose towering presence wasn’t welcomed on set.

Depp was less ambivalent, spending months at home with the author in an attempt to ‘steal his soul’, while the usually rugged Del Toro is unrecognizable having gained 40lbs to live his maxim, ‘Too weird to live. Too rare to die.’ Gilliam’s unique vision usually trumps the material, but this time a classy script is in tow. The effect is almost a stalemate, but the actors push it through, coupled with cameos from Tobey Maguire and Christina Ricci that complement appearances from Cameron Diaz and Harry Dean Stanton. They are, however, eclipsed by Gary Busey, whose sexually ambivalent traffic cop is unforgettably weird and undeniably the product of twisted genius.

production details
USA | 118 minutes | 1998

Director: Terry Gilliam
Writers: Terry Gilliam, Tony Grisoni, Tod Davies, Alex Cox (from Hunter S Thompson’s novel)

cast
Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke
Benicio del Toro as Dr. Gonzo / Oscar Z. Acosta
Harry Dean Stanton as Judge
Verne Troyer as Wee Waiter
Christina Ricci as Lucy
Ellen Barkin as Waitress at North Star Cafe
Mark Harmon as Magazine Reporter at Mint 400
Laraine Newman as Frog-Eyed Woman
Christopher Meloni as Sven, Flamingo Hotel Clerk
Tobey Maguire as Hitchhiker
Gary Busey as Highway Patrolman
Tim Thomerson as Hoodlum
Katherine Helmond as Desk Clerk at Mint Hotel
Michael Jeter as Ron Bumquist
Richard Riehle as Dune Buggy Driver
Debbie Reynolds as Herself (voice)
Cameron Diaz as Blonde TV Reporter
Penn Jillette as Carnie Talker
Craig Bierko as Lacerda
Lyle Lovett as Road Person
Flea as Hippie/Musician
Troy Evans as Police Chief
Jenette Goldstein as Alice the Maid
Gregory Itzin as Mint Hotel Clerk
Buck Holland as Shopper
Mary Gillis as Shopper
Elenn Barkin as North Star Waitress
Hunter S. Thompson as Other Duke in Matrix Flashback (uncredited)