Oscar-winning director captures the life and work of journalist
Hunter S. Thompson
SEDONA, AZ - Oct 19, 2008 -The Sedona International Film Festival
concludes its "OctoberFEST of Film" on Tuesday, Oct. 28 with the
Northern Arizona premiere of "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter
S. Thompson," a new documentary that is playing to rave reviews from
critics and audiences around the globe. There will be two screenings
of the film at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. at Harkins Sedona Six Theatres.
The film is narrated by Johnny Depp. "Gonzo" is directed by Alex
Gibney, the Academy Award nominated director of Enron: the Smartest
Guys in the Room and the director of the Academy Award winning
documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side.
"Gonzo" is the definitive film biography of a mythic American figure,
a man that Tom Wolfe called our "greatest comic writer," whose
suicide, by gunshot, led Rolling Stone Magazine, where Thompson began
his career, to devote an entire issue (its best-selling ever) to the
man that launched a brash, irreverent, fearless style of journalism -
named "gonzo" after an anarchic blues riff by James Booker.
Borrowing from Kris Kristofferson, Thompson was a "walking
contradiction, partly truth, mostly fiction." While his pen dripped
with venom for crooked politicians, he surprised nervous visitors
with the courtly manners and soft-spoken delivery of a Southern
gentleman. Careening out of control in his personal life, Thompson
also maintained a steel-eyed conviction about righting wrongs.
Today, in a time when "spin" has replaced the search for deeper
meaning, Thompson remains an iconic crusader for truth, justice and a
fiercely idealistic American way. Like Jack Kerouac's On the Road,
his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (and the movie made from it)
remains a wanderlust myth for generation after generation of American
youth. And for America's most esteemed journalists – from Tom Wolfe,
and Walter Isaacson (former editor of Time) to the NY Times' Frank
Rich – he remains an iconic freelance, never afraid to gore every
sacred cow in his path. He believed that writing could make a
difference. It could change things.
While director Gibney shaped the screen story, every narrated word in
the film springs from the typewriters of Thompson himself. Those
words are given life by Johnny Depp, the actor who once shadowed
Thompson's every move for the screen version of Fear and Loathing in
Las Vegas, and who bankrolled Thompson's spectacular funeral
(photographed for this film).
The film is distinguished by its unprecedented cooperation of
Thompson's friends, family and estate. The filmmakers had access to
hundreds of photographs and over 200 hours of audiotapes, home movies
and documentary footage of the man. In addition, the estate granted
unusual access to the work itself, allowing the film to quote from
unpublished manuscripts, as well as the many letters, books and
articles that Thompson produced. Ralph Steadman – the visionary
artist whose ink-splattered drawings and paintings created a
subversively iconic visual landscape for Thompson's words – also
granted the filmmakers access to previously unpublished artworks and
The signature of the film, however, is its focus on Thompson's work,
particularly his most provocative and productive period from 1965 to
1975. His wicked words resonate today, at a time when politicians
have become manufactured celebrities, shrouding themselves in Teflon,
issuing banalities whose only value is that they rarely offend. Too
often, contemporary journalists play the politicians' game, taking
them seriously with a balance they don't deserve. Thompson never
stood for that. He understood, better than any other, that when the
going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
The critics have been raving about "Gonzo." Vanity Fair calls it
"absolutely riveting, an extraordinary film." USA Today says the film
is "captivating, mesmerizing and fascinating" and says it is "not
just for fans, but anyone interested in art, human nature and
Andrew Sarris from the New York Observer says "Gonzo" is "the most
absorbing film, fiction or non-fiction, I have seen this year.
'Gonzo' is a must-see for everyone!"
"Fascinating!" says A.O. Scott from the New York Times. "At his best
Hunter Thompson was braver, funnier and more ruthlessly honest than
just about any other magazine writer and 'Gonzo' confirms his place
in the best, most disreputable corner of our literary pantheon."
The title sponsor for the Sedona premiere is The Sedona-Verde Valley
Times. The series is also made possible by a grant from the Arizona
Commission on the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts and the
City of Sedona.
The film will be shown at Harkins Sedona Six Theatres on Tuesday,
Oct. 28 at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $10, or $8 for Film Sedona
members, and will be available starting at 3:00 p.m. in the Harkins
lobby. Cash or checks only. Seats are limited. Film Sedona members
can purchase tickets in advance at the Sedona International Film
Festival office, 1785 W. Hwy. 89A, Suite 2B, or by calling 282-1177.