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FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS

Let The Games Begin
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas began princi-pal photography in that very extravagant city of the title at the beginning of August, a month of guaran-teed heatstroke, with Gilliam and company turning back the clock to 1971, which by the standards of Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas began principal photography in that very extravagant city of the title at the beginning of August, a month of guaranteed heatstroke, with Gilliam and company turning back the clock to 1971, which by the standards of Vegas time is ancient history. Production designer Alex McDowell and his team were challenged to recreate the city in all of its pre­family­friendly gaudiness, including the now­deceased downtown Mint Hotel, earlier incarnations of the Desert Inn and Flamingo Hotels, and the fictitious, wildly colorful Bazooko Circus Hotel and Casino. Sequences were filmed at such locations as Binion's Horseshoe (which had actually been the Mint in an earlier incarnation) and the Plaza in downtown's "Glitter Gulch," and on the vaunted Strip, the Stardust and the Riviera, navigating around working casinos and crowds. The company also had to navigate around the incredibly bizarre weather that besieged them during the first three weeks' filming, including a rare stretch of rain in the month of August.

"We began this movie trying to be as cheap as possible and just using existing places," offers Gilliam. "The difficulty is that it takes place in Las Vegas in 1971, and that Las Vegas doesn't exist anymore. We didn't have the money to re­create it as elaborately as Martin Scorsese did in Casino, so we were grabbing bits and pieces. Originally, I was very pedantic in trying to be very true to the time, but as we progressed I became freer in our interpretation."

Gilliam, one of the most flamboyant visualists working in film, had very specific ideas of Fear and Loathing's look. "Alice in Wonderland meets Dante's Inferno was the ruling principle," laughs McDowell. "For us, this was never about being a period piece. Ultimately, Terry just wasn't uptight about historical accuracy."

"Terry's instructions were to look to the book if the script wasn't providing enough information," continues McDowell. "We pored through Thompson's book and Steadman's illustrations, and then came up with our own ideas based on the script and whatever we were able to bring to it."

Director of photography Nicola Pecorini also enjoyed his collaboration working with a director who has such a distinct aesthetic. "I believe that a 'visual director' is every cinematographer's dream," Pecorini notes. "It is much easier to translate on film very strong visual ideas than having to interpret from scratch some confused and contradictory 'clues,' as is too often the case.

"The movie is about state of minds and the capacities of Duke and Gonzo to control such states by constantly inducing the next stage," continues Pecorini. "Therefore, the problem was how to represent cinematographically the different states of mind. In pre­production, I suggested certain parameters for each state of mind in each scene. Different stocks, filters, speeds, framing guidelines, etc. The movie definitely has a wide range of styles that help the telling of the story."

Regarding his experiences shooting in various and sundry Vegas casinos, Pecorini notes, "The hours were tight, the ambiance noisy, and we couldn't set too many lights so as not to 'blind the gamblers.' But the most difficulties arose from the fact that little is left

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