Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a 1998 film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's 1971 novel of the same name. The film, directed by Terry Gilliam, stars Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke and Benicio del Toro as Dr. Gonzo.
Previous attempts to adapt the book into a film included Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando as Duke and Gonzo. At one point, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were considered for the duo; John Cusack was also almost cast. Animator/filmmaker Ralph Bakshi, Martin Scorsese, and Oliver Stone all tried unsuccessfully to direct an adaptation. Thompson met Depp and was convinced no one else could play him. Filmmaker Alex Cox was eventually hired to direct with Depp and Del Toro committed to starring in the film, but the filmmaker had "creative differences" with Thompson over the script treatment as documented in the documentary Breakfast with Hunter. Gilliam was subsequently hired and made the film with the writer's approval.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was a box office failure, grossing US$.6 million at the North American box office, well below its $18.5 million budget. It has since become a cult film due in large part to its release on DVD, including a Special Edition released by The Criterion Collection.
The film opens with a montage of protests regarding the Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam War, before cutting to Raoul Duke (Depp) and Dr. Gonzo (Del Toro) speeding down the desert of Nevada. Duke, under the influence of mescaline, complains of hallucinating a swarm of giant bats, before going through the pair's inventory of psychoactive drugs. Shortly afterward, the duo stop to pick up a young hitchhiker (Tobey Maguire), and explain what they are doing. Duke has been assigned by an unnamed magazine to travel to Las Vegas and cover the Mint 400 motorcycle race. However, they have also decided to take advantage of this trip by purchasing countless drugs, and rent a brand new Chevy Impala convertible. The young man soon becomes terrified of the drug-filled antics of the duo, and flees on foot. Trying to reach Vegas before the hitchhiker can go to the police, Gonzo gives Duke a tab of "Sunshine Acid", then informs him that there is little chance of making it before the drug kicks in. By the time they reach the strip, Duke is in full throes of his trip, and barely makes it through the check-in; all the while hallucinating that the hotel clerk is a moray eel, and that his fellow bar patrons are hideous lizards in the depths of an orgy.
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