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’. While 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) in which the good doctor’s ashes were fired from a rocket launcher mounted with a towering two-thumbed fist whose palm held a giant peyote button.
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 In addition, the estate granted unusual access to the work itself, allowing the film to quote from unpublished manuscripts, as well as the many letters, books and articles that Thompson produced.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created a subversively iconic visual landscape for Thompson’s words – also granted the filmmakers access to previously unpublished artworks and Polaroid’s.
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.