Filming a Living Legend
In Breakfast with Hunter, filmmaker Wayne Ewing takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to making a documentary about Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the gonzo journalist and literary icon responsible for such cult-status books as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. It’s quite a challenge, for Hunter’s behavior, as he would freely admit, is more often than not “too weird.” In a conversation with P. J. O’Rourke, the infamous writer says the word “gonzo” comes from the Portuguese and means exactly that -- too weird.
Ewing (TV’s Crime & Punishment) creates an impressive you-are-there ambience for this unusual documentary. Whether watching Hunter and John Cusack in the dark, smoky Viper Room in L.A. or Hunter teaching Johnny Depp to shoot a gun while visiting the writer’s Colorado Owl Farm, one feels like a bystander at the real event. And there’s so much booze flowing, the film should be declared off-limits to recovering alcoholics.
However, by far the most impressive scene in Breakfast with Hunter takes place when Hunter stands up for his artistic integrity against two people who are assigned to make Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into a major motion picture. They want to use animation in one part of the film; Hunter objects strongly. He can’t bear the thought of anyone turning his work into a cartoon and practically throws the two out of his house. I don’t remember when I’ve seen a more engrossing verbal confrontation on film.
Ewing also deals with Hunter’s Freak Party campaign for Sheriff in Aspen as well as his fight against a DUI charge. As always, Hunter finds outrageous ways to handle these situations. In addition, scenes showing Hunter interacting with people like George McGovern, George Plimpton, and Terry Gilliam (who ended up directing Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) add to the nostalgic feel of the documentary.
Among the intriguing supplementary features on this DVD are P.J. O’Rourke interviewing Hunter about gonzo journalism, drugs and writing; Don Johnson and O’Rourke reading Hunter’s “Screwjack,” and Warren Zevon writing lyrics with Hunter.
No one writes more colorfully and personally about the counterculture and politics than Hunter S. Thompson. Thanks to Wayne Ewing, Breakfast with Hunter provides a unique visual record of this sometimes outlandishly childish but always provocative man who is one of the most memorable writers of the 20th century.
(Released by Wayne Ewing Films, Inc & Gonzo International; not rated by MPAA. Order the DVD here.)