A strong bond was formed between Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp in the making of Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing In Last Vegas – on beyond the standard relationship between actor and subject being portrayed. Thompson famously shaved Depp’s head in preparation for the performance, and they remained tight friends up until the legendary journalist’s death in 2005. You can get a sense of how close they got in Depp’s two portrayals of Thompson on the big screen, but if you need to attach a number figure to it, it’s worth pointing out that the Oscar nominee spent $5 million to orchestrate it so that Thompson’s ashes would be fired out of a cannon as the author’s funeral.
This surprising figure has come out of a report from the Wall Street Journal about a lawsuit between Johnny Depp and his former managers. In it, it’s noted that a cross-complaint from the latter group that the actor spent $3 million on Hunter S. Thompson’s funeral, but the former and his lawyers have pointed to that figure as an inaccuracy in the countersuit, saying that it cost $2 million more than claimed. If that seems like a lot of money for a giant cannon, it should be noted that the thing was built into a 153-foot monument for quite the epic show.
The launching of Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes via cannon was something that the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas writer planned out all the way back in the 1970s alongside famed artist and Thompson collaborator Ralph Steadman (featuring a giant tower brandishing Thomspon’s logo: a double-thumbed fist holding a peyote button in the palm). The funeral was held as a private event on Thompson’s own estate in Woody Creek, Colorado, but had over 280 people in attendance – with Johnny Depp funding the entire thing. Completing the spectacle were red, white, and blue fireworks as well as the music of Norman Greenbaum and Bob Dylan blasted from giant speakers.
To date, Johnny Depp has had the opportunity to play the father of Gonzo Journalism twice – the first before Hunter S. Thompson’s death, and the second after. As mentioned earlier , Depp first channeled Thompson as Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – paired up with Benicio Del Toro as the mad Oscar Zeta Acosta a.k.a. Dr. Gonzo. Seventeen years later – after a great deal of development time – Depp had the opportunity to enter the journalist’s skin once again for director Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary in 2011 (under the moniker Paul Kemp). Sadly, the second effort wasn’t quite as successful as the original, but at least he had the opportunity to make it as a passion project.
It’s unclear whether or not Johnny Depp will ever have the opportunity to make another Hunter S. Thompson movie again, but one can imagine that he would jump at the chance if given one. Whether he would be involved as a star or just as a producer, there’s still plenty of great material out there just waiting to be adapted, including Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, Hell’s Angels – or perhaps even a biopic chronicling the man’s incredible life. Hell, they could even make a movie specifically about the man’s funeral – and maybe wouldn’t even have to spend much more than the budget of the actual event.