New documentary provides an intimate portrait of the life of English artist Ralph Steadman, friend of Hunter S. Thompson.
Ralph Steadman, the wild mind behind the illustrations that accompanied Gonzo journalistHunter S. Thompson‘s most famous work, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” is the focus of a new documentary by English director, Charlie Paul.
In April, I had the opportunity to travel to Louisville and experience Gonzo Fest, a week-long celebration dedicated to honoring the life, work and inspirations of Thompson. As a special gift to festival-goers, Paul held the U.S. premiere of his new film, “For No Good Reason,” at the IMAX theater in theKentucky Science Center.
The documentary, which opens in Indianapolis at the Keystone Art Cinema on June 6, gives an intimate look inside Steadman’s life. In the film, actor Johnny Depp visits Steadman in his home in Maidstone and the two reminisce about the artist’s early days, and the friend they lost nearly ten years ago.
I had a chance to catch up with Charlie, and his wife, Lucy (the film’s producer), on the phone during their recent visit to Chicago.
Q: Did you ever think the film would be shown on a screen that big?
A: No. Actually, no, not at all. I got lovely reports back from artists saying how inspired they were to go back to their studio and start painting immediately. It really warmed my heart. It was a great audience and a great place to launch the film. I’m so pleased those crazies down there run that mad festival.
Q: I know you’ve been working on this film for 15 years. How did you decide that it was finished? Is it finished?
A: Well, to be perfectly honest, the film, and my relationship with Ralph, isn’t done. We’re still making the film at the moment. I still carry on with Ralph, I go down and we do stuff, but it was my brilliant wife producer here who, about five years into the process, decided to try and get me to focus on the second stage of making a movie, which is not the actual recording of the information, but the building of the story.
Q: Throughout the film we see Hunter talking, we see a segment with William S. Burroughs. Were those shots sourced, or were they filmed by you, Charlie?
A: One of the most incredible things that happened to me was, after Ralph agreed that I could come down and say hello to him in the first place, I went down and we had a lovely day together. Before I left, Ralph gave me a big cardboard box and said, “Maybe you should have a look at these.” In the box were over a hundred videotapes that Ralph had shot over the years, and in this box were these long drunken evenings with Ralph and Hunter just sitting around the house talking. I just knew when I saw this stuff that I had my hands on the most intimate and powerful stuff that anyone could possibly record in their life. That’s when I knew this film was going to have legs, it was going to have this genuine insight into a relationship.