Sex symbol goes gonzo in tale of early drug days

Cannes '98: A film festival premiere for the psychedelic world of a Seventies cult book - and the traditional Grande Gaffe strikes again

ONE OF the great cult novels of the past 30 years, Hunter S Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, has finally been brought to the screen in a version unlikely to escape controversy.

Yesterday, the film's director, former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam, defended its powerful drugs imagery and said it was time to take a more grown-up view of drugs.

The 1971 book told of journalist Thompson's journey with a friend to Las Vegas in an orgy of drug-taking as the dream of the Sixties faded. His reportage style, told through the device of fiction with heavy lacings of psychedelia, gave birth to a new genre, "gonzo journalism", and bequeathed the phrase "fear and loathing" to the language.

The movie, which had its world film premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last night, stars a shaven-headed Johnny Depp in the Thompson role. Several past attempts to make the film have failed partly because of its explicit passages relating to good and bad drug trips.

The making of this version has its own bizarre tales. Depp told yesterday how he had spent three months getting to know Thompson in the fortified compound where the latter lives. For five days he lived in Thompson's basement. Depp, a heavy smoker, only noticed after three days that there was a keg of gunpowder in the basement.

Describing his first meeting with Thompson (who has a small cameo in the film), Depp said: "I first met him in a bar. He came in with a cattle prod in one hand and a stun gun in the other. I went with him to his house. He had built a bomb in his kitchen. He took it outside and gave me a gun to fire at it. There was an 80ft fireball."

The film shows the use and abuse of every drug from the era, as well as allusions to violence, intimidation and under-age sex. Yet some critics found its unrelenting lack of variation in tone and pace tedious. But the presence of the popular actor and sex symbol Johnny Depp - who put in a good performance - should guarantee it wide distribution.

Yesterday, Terry Gilliam was asked whether he was worried that drugs in the Nineties have far more negative connotations than they had in 1971. He replied: "There's such hypocrisy about drugs. It's all shock horror. But as a world we're dependent on drugs. I drink very strong coffee. Prozac is acceptable.

"I think the drugs of the Sixties and Seventies were expansive drugs for better or worse. Yes it's dangerous, but driving a car is dangerous. We're so obsessed with avoiding danger and it can be avoiding life.

"It's nonsense the way people talk about drugs. People should talk about them openly ... I've been feeling, since the Eighties, that we've gone through such a constricted time when everything has kind of tightened up. Everybody is frightened to say what they feel, frightened to live in an extraordinary, outrageous way, and it's time to take off those chains."

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence