He was a tortured soul with an energy that was phenomenal. Hunter Thompson, formed and shaped by the most controversial generation that the United States ever had, was the man that helped to change writing and journalism as it is known today. He was known for his flamboyant writing style, Gonzo Journalism, which blurred the distinction between writer and subject. He was a visionary and an “in your face” opinionated force to be dealt with. Many could not comprehend his perception on politics and life in general.
The independent film, Gonzo, concentrates on Thompson as the unique individual he was. Oscar nominated and Academy Award winner, director Alex Gibney brings about a raw perspective on the inner thoughts of Hunter as only Gibney can. The project was brought to Alex nearly three years ago and the director expresses, “I had no idea what I was in for. Hunter was somebody who didn’t play by the rules-he used biting humor to show people how politicians lie to us. So I thought it would be a good idea to go back and look at him as a writer.”
When asked what he took away from the film he states, “The most satisfying part of the journey was through the words of the man himself.” Alex is known for his brutal honesty in the films he directs. The movie “Gonzo” is no exception, as the viewer is able to see the true Hunter in his life’s work and goals.
Opening the film was Johnny Depp’s melodic voice reading Hunter’s writing. Depp seemed to have a connection to the writer that expanded the audiences understanding of Thompson immediately. Yet, their relationship was one of mutual admiration. When inquired about Johnny’s participation in the film Alex shares:
“It wasn’t until Johnny saw a rough cut of the film, that he realized he wanted to be a part of it. When Hunter was alive he actually went and lived with Hunter in Hunter’s Owl Farm house. He shadowed Hunter and he became Hunter for a period of time, and he even put up 2 million bucks for that spectacular funeral.”
Johnny and Hunter shared a kindred spirit and any film would not have been complete without input from Depp. Gibney shared, “We pursued Johnny over four continents.“ Many have been astounded at Depp’s accurate portrayal of the writer, stating that Johnny snatched Thompson’s very soul during his role in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Thompson was called psychotic and accused of having no grip on reality and yet, he was constantly surrounded by the minions. Attracting all those that came in contact with him, either fueled by hate or obsession. Hunter thought and lived on a plain that none could share. A true gypsy and pirate if there ever was one, Mr. Thompson’s day to day existence continued to push the limit of consciousness and mentality. He was quoted as saying, “The only difference between the sane and the insane, is the IN and yet within this world, the sane have the power to have the insane locked up.”
When asked to what extent Hunter became a prisoner of his own celebrity, Gibney replies:
“He created a character for himself that was impossible to live up to and that was debilitating. Also when you’ve had a great success as a writer, you always start to wonder whether or not you’re a shadow of what you once were.”
It has been said that with Hunter you could never be prepared for what you were going to get. Those that knew him often saw two very different sides of the man, the loving, sweet, quiet and thoughtful Hunter who would reach out to save a cause and defend the weak. Then, there was a heartless, short tempered, foul mouthed, bastard who would cut into anyone he saw fit and not let go until that subject spirit lie dead on the floor like a lifeless rabbit brought in by the hounds. These individual personalities are shown in this film and will draw you in within the first few seconds as you try to unravel the mystery of the true Hunter Thompson. His influence on today’s writers is unmistakable.
Alex agrees, “He became such a unique figure that you imitate him at your peril. You can find bits and pieces of him all over the place, some to great benefit, some not. At the same time he was writing with such deliberation that he was writing for both the moment and for history and you don’t find that much these days.”
Inside himself, Hunter was an agonized human being. A true tortured soul who sought peace and happiness in the realms beyond reality. He strived for a perfect country in which he could just be himself and yet, if he had found this place, it could be said that Gonzo would have never emerged as the true inspiration in which he became. Thompson delved into thousands of lives in one way or another. His death in 2005 was felt among all of journalism, writing, acting, politics, and beyond; a wound cut deep now scarred over. The scar that remains to remind the world of his eccentric presence.
His famous quote, read by Johnny Depp in the film, “The Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” now Hunter himself, dwells over the edge.
Released on December 19th 2008 in the UK and coming to the US in January.
Written by guest author Lizzy Garcia