For No Good Reason (2012) Script

I really thought what I would do if I ever learned to draw properly was I would try to change the world.

Is this thing working?

Right now, Ralph, what exactly are we doing here?

It's a very odd idea to make a movie, a film, a documentary, about an artist, say me.

And in one way it's rather a good idea, and in another way you wonder why one is doing it.

Except that it's become far more personal as it's developed into something which really is about my work and about me.

And I think that makes it more interesting because it takes in the good and the bad.

It takes in all sides, all dimensions.

It's almost, when you come down to see us, we know what we're going to do, even though we haven't planned anything.

We just simply carry on and if something comes out, something does, and sometimes it doesn't.

And so that seems to me the kind of thing that's made this all worthwhile.

I haven't seen Ralph since the signing of Hunter's memorial poster.

It's been a while, and I've really been looking forward to catching up with him in his studio at Loose Court.


I'm gonna put a piece of paper down here.

I don't know why. I think it's because you're in the room.

If you weren't here, I'd be having a lie-down now.

Are you ready for this?

'Cause it might not be very good, but it might be great, too.

I love it.

When I don't know what to do, I do that.

It's a kind of cheat, in a way, because you don't know whether you did it because you can't do anything and there is nothing in your mind, or you did it because it might just lead somewhere.

It's fantastic when that happens.

I can see a horse in there already.

I didn't know what it was and then I suddenly thought, "I know what it is."

It's an unloved pet, and it's a shame that I drew it, really, because I don't like it.

It's a horrible-looking creature.

And if it walked into the living room, I'd kick it out.

And it's a frame of mind.

All I've done is made something that's part of a frame of mind I might be in at the moment.

What a terrible thing.

It was 1969 when my first book was published.

It was a collected works of all my cartoons that I had done since I had taken it seriously.

That's absolutely amazing.

This was the beginning, really, the conducted tour, and the whole idea of it being The Pioneers, it's like you're going, you know, we're going off on a conducted tour and everything's comfortable.

And they'd just get off the bus, look around and get back on again.

And then I thought of this when they brought Muzak in.

So I did the picture called Down at the Old Bull and Bush.

And there's the old boy with his pint and then all this Muzak coming out of the speaker.

Because it was really only just getting going, all this stuff.

Part of my idea of humor was it would be slightly maniacal.

But there was an arrogance missing.

There was a wildness missing.

There was a rawness missing.

It lacked that bite I needed, that real ferocious bite, the thing that would make it noticeable.

Still as relevant today as it was then.

Great. Amazing. Just incredible.

The reason I learned to draw wasn't just to be able to draw and people say, "That's pretty," but that I needed to apply it as a weapon almost.

It was something quite savage.

People would see the work and they would think about it.

In a way, it was a wonderful calling card.

I took it with me to America.

And that was 1970.

Bus for New York City.

Hey, driver, hold up. I'm trying to get on.

Hold up, man.

All right. Thanks a lot.

My idea was actually to do a thousand pictures of New York.


What I was looking for were things to draw.

New York, skyscrapers and everything.

It's God's own city, man.

Hey, what's up, man? Hey, you look fine.

What you trying to make yourself five bucks for, bro?

Yeah. Hey, hey.

Just run across, man. Just run across the street. Come on, man.

What it does for me, it freezes a moment, that when I look back on it, I think, "Goodness me. Did that really happen?"

You know, it's just something that is frozen in time and it's gonna change.

Nothing stays the same.

I found it upsetting seeing all these vagrant people wandering the streets and always staggering towards you and grabbing you by the hand.

And saying, "Give us a dime, buddy. This is a tough city to get started in."

It's hopeless. I could never do it.


And I wanted to capture that sort of look, that face.

I was drawn towards skid row, I was drawn towards it as a sort of almost a museum of misery and deprivation.

And I think this is a picture of a bum, and he's hanging onto a fire hydrant, and there's a woman saying, "Why don't you get up and get yourself a job?"

You know, that sort of thing.

"You're lyin' about on the pavement doin' nothin'."

"Leave me alone, lady. Leave me alone."

I think my experience in New York gave me the conviction that I needed to make this the work of my life.

I needed it to reassure myself that I wasn't wasting my time.

Cartooning meant more to me than just doing funny pictures.

It meant to change things for the better.

While I was in New York, I got a phone call.


To go and meet an ex-Hells Angel who just shaved his head, Hunter S. Thompson.

Hunter, he always called you in the middle of the night.

It was always 3:00, 4:00 in the morning. You knew it was Hunter.

He said, "God damn it." He always said, "God damn it."

"Gotta go to the Kentucky Derby." Well, it was, like, Wednesday or Thursday.

Kentucky Derby was Saturday.

I was like, "Well, okay, you wanna go to the Kentucky Derby, we'll go."

He says, "Well, a photographer?" I said, "We'll find somebody."

So, it was short notice, so I thought of this guy Ralph Steadman, who was a British cartoonist whose work I'd seen many times, very evil-minded, twisted kind of guy.

And so we dragged him to Kentucky and they ended up going through this haze of alcohol and drugs, madness, and so they became part of the story themselves.

The next day was heavy.

With 30 hours to post time, I had no press credentials, and according to the sports editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, no hope at all of getting any.

Worse, I needed two sets.

One for myself and another for Ralph Steadman, the English illustrator who was coming all the way from London to do some derby drawings.

All I knew about him was that this was his first visit to the United States, and the more I pondered that fact, the more it gave me fear.

Would he bear up under the heinous culture shock of being lifted out of London and plunged into a drunken mob scene at the Kentucky Derby?

We had to find each other, as it were.

Oh, God. Where is he?

Eventually, I heard this voice behind me saying, "Excuse me.

"Are you... Are you Ralph Steadman?"

He said, "Would you like a drink?"

Anyway, we went on this binge for a week.

I was making notes and drawing.

Hunter said, "It's a filthy habit you've got there, scribbling dark pictures.

"And around these parts that's an insult."

He said, "I've got a horrible feeling we're gonna have to get out of here."

From that point on, the weekend became a vicious drunken nightmare.

We both went completely to pieces, and since poor Steadman had no choice but to take what came his way, he was subjected to shock after shock.

We sort of went along with whatever happened, and we'd made that agreement with ourselves, you know, between each other.

"That's what we do. We just go and see what happens."

"I'll do the drawings, you write," you know?

So that became the beginning of Gonzo.

Now, looking down from the press box, I pointed to the huge grassy meadow enclosed by the track.

"That whole thing," I said, "will be jammed with people, "50,000 or so, most of them staggering drunk.

"It's a fantastic scene, thousands of people fainting, "crying, copulating, trampling each other and fighting with broken whiskey bottles."

I think what he saw, in our connection, was somebody that somehow saw the thing in pictures as he saw it in words, you know.

And that seemed to me to be part of the whole chemistry of it, that our chemistry there made Gonzo possible.

"What I'm trying to find," he said, Hunter, "is a certain kind of Kentucky face, the face of the Kentucky Derby."

And the point is that by the end of the week, the very face we were looking for was us looking back at ourselves in the mirror.

I don't recognize anyone anymore. Yeah.

What I in fact had done, without realizing it, was scored a bull's-eye first time... - Yeah.

On my first visit to America.

I mean, I met up with the one man I needed to meet in all the world, in the whole of America, to work with. Yeah.

I got very depressed when I got back on the plane to England, because I was going to have to go back to a completely conventional cartoon job.

And that really didn't fill me with much happiness.

Let's go, Beanie.

Now, take it easy.

A bit... Ever so free.

A phone call came and it was Hunter.

"Ralph, I've got this manuscript.

"Could you do us a dozen drawings of something that could go with it?"

"Well," I said, "I'll try."

And I just set about it.

Got myself some booze as well, 'cause I seemed to need to be a bit drunk to do it, you know.

I did about a dozen drawings, rolled them up in a tube and sent them off.

"We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert

"when the drugs began to take hold.

"I remember saying something like, "'I feel a bit light-headed. Maybe you should drive.'

"And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us

"and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, "all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, "which was going about 100 miles an hour

"with the top down to Las Vegas."

When Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas came out, I think people were stunned by it.

I mean, nobody had really seen anything like that.

It was a full-out celebration of the most outrageous kind of behavior, and then it was so...

Funny and dangerous and eccentric and wild.

Looks like it's gonna be a classic of 20th century literature.

So you're down on the main floor playing blackjack and the stakes are getting high.

When suddenly you chance to look up and there, right smack above your head, is a half-naked 14-year-old girl being chased through the air by a snarling Wolverine, which is suddenly locked in a death battle with two silver-painted Polacks, who come swinging down from opposite balconies and meet in mid-air on the wolverine's neck.

And no one had seen anything like this before, certainly not in American illustration.

And the pictures really weren't about the story, but they were a reflection of the story, of what was in Hunter's mind.

The casino scene, with all the lizards, the hitchhiker...

I mean, those things just have a life of their own, because they're accompanied by all this literature with it and whole stories that go with each illustration, or illustrations to go with each story, depending on which point of view you take.

I wanted to get it out of my system.

It was something that was just lying there waiting to erupt.

So it was a bit like being sick.

I threw the pictures down and they worked because they were about something specific, but they allowed me a complete freedom to do... it was as though I was there.

Are we marking?

Do you feel like your lack of drug-taking ever affected, had an effect on your relationship with Hunter?

No, no, in fact, it was better that way.

It was better that we were like chalk and cheese.

I mean, the whole idea of me being like him would have been ridiculous.

Hunter, it's me!

Because he was someone entirely different.

We didn't necessarily see eye to eye.

We had entirely different experiences of life.

And to him I was weird, and to me he was weird.

Nice to see you.

Can I get some water?

Right, you ready? Okay.

I like that.

Did you get that? Great.

Oh, dear. I like that one.

Well, this is cartridge paper.

It's a good-quality, very thick cartridge paper.

And this is Indian ink.

I like a brush...

For that kind of a stroke, I couldn't have done it with this one, for instance, which is less weight.

But it might do something, and it's lovely.

I love it, what it does.

And I might do another one down there.

And the way I flick, you just simply have a flick of the wrist, which is a sort of a proper semicircle, in a way.

And then I've got this here, you know, and I could take some of this and go...

Then I could, for instance...

An eye in there.

And I like the idea of an eye in there and a sense of some face that's happening there.

And I blow like so.

And things happen.

What are you doing right now?

Well, I'm pulling away the gesso from underneath the color.

I think perhaps, you know, art is just tricks, really.

In a way, I don't know what there is there.

I mean, it's only a... it started out as a blank sheet of paper and it's become more than that.

There's an event going on in there. Yeah.

That's rather nice.

Take Francis Bacon.

He always seemed to manage to make his pictures look like an event, even though they were not necessarily specifically of somebody.

But he brought excitement into an area that was apparently, at first glance, nothing.

And I found that to be pretty amazing, really.

Do you make any use of preliminary studies or sketches of any sort?

Yes, I do.

But after that, chance and what I call accident takes over, when consciously I don't know what I'm doing.

At that moment, I'm thinking of nothing but how hopeless and impossible this thing is to achieve.

Suddenly there comes something which your instinct seizes on as being for a moment the thing by which it could begin to develop.

What that is, in fact, is stop-out.

If I blow more color over that, then I rub it, and it pulls this stuff off with the color and leaves the paper still where it was.

So I'll just do this.

But also I'm worried about going too far with that and completely losing it, you know.

Sure. I'd like to leave it for a bit, I think.

The most enigmatic and inquiring artist that ever lived would be Rembrandt, who took it upon himself to do self-portrait after self-portrait in the process of getting older.

It was the most undecorative idea, taking yourself and watching yourself grow old, and give us an animation of his aging in beautiful paintings, great self-portraits.

It was the most scintillating intellectual exercise that one could imagine.

Now what I'm gonna do is, 'cause on there, there's all this lovely masking fluid, and this is the only thing that will take it off, which is masking fluid gone solid.

What's underneath there?

And this coming out now. You're watching this?

Some sort of substantial sort of place exists beyond the skyline.

I find this funny, because even amongst all the great details, there's precision in your work, but you're still very, very playful.

Well, it's 'cause I'm not very professional.

I don't go out of my way to be professional.

I go out of my way to try and make something that is as unexpected to me as it is to anyone else, you know?

That's perfect.

I think, most importantly, Picasso has been the biggest influence of all, because of his continuing persistent creative daily life.

The way he made his life into the reason for his living every day.

And it gave me a purpose, too, in a strange kind of way, and a sense of, "God, is there anything on that piece of paper?"

"Anything can be there."

And Picasso proved it day after day after day after day.

He convinced me that the thing I can do is simply start a drawing and it will come out the other end somehow.

And I won't know how it's going to come out completely, but that's the fascination.

That makes it a worthwhile pursuit.

If I knew what was going to happen before I started, what would be the point of doing it?

If you surprise yourself still, you really could have a good trip.

Well, the phone rang.

"Ralph, this is Hunter."

"So they seem to have liked the Kentucky Derby piece

"and they want us to do something else, you know.

"They want us to go to Zaire

"and cover the Ali/Foreman fight, "the Rumble in the Jungle."

So I said, "Yes, Hunter, I think that would be very nice."

I flew from London and I arrived in Zaire, and the first thing I noticed when I got off the plane was the blanket of heat.

The first thing Hunter did was to go out and buy himself a massive bag of grass.

And I thought to myself, "I'm not gonna enjoy this."

The phone rang and it was Hunter.

"Ralph, got a great story.

"Cover the America's Cup in Rhode island."

And I said, "Well, I don't really like boats."

So when we got there, the weather was so bad, the race was off.

I got a call from him. "Ralph, this is Hunter here."

"How do you feel about doing another story?"

Sorry. "Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, "care of General Delivery, Woody Creek, Colorado, "It was May 23, 1980."

"Dear Hunter, "we would like you to cover the Honolulu Marathon."

"We will pay all expenses and an excellent fee."

"Think about it. This is a good chance for a vacation."

Feels nice.

And the idea was Hunter and I would come out of the chocks, "shoulder to shoulder," as he put it, you know, and run as fast as hell, obviously leaving people behind.

And a truck would pick us up and take us the rest of the way, you see.

George Foreman, I will bruise him up.

If I don't knock him out, I will cut him all up.

Nicks and cuts all over his face.

On the eighth floor of the Intercontinental, George Foreman would go walking with the dog.

I came up with another idea.

Why don't we go in amongst the two boats, the Gretel and the Intrepid, and I write something, with a spray can, on the side of one of the boats?

He said, "What are you gonna write, Ralph?"

I said, "Well, I thought of writing 'Fuck the Pope.'"

And we waited for the people who were by this time knackered.

Then we'd be there to jeer.

"Run, you bastard, run!" we would shout.

They went, "You filthy buggers! No sportsmanship in you."

We'd gone there to screw the race up.

It's an awful thing to do.

I mean, this is the mean face of Gonzo.

Hunter said, "Are you ready for this?" I said, "Yes."

And you know when you take a spray can, you have to shake it.

And there's a little ball, so you've got this, "Click, click, click..."

I heard somebody say, "What are you guys doing down there?"

And Hunter said, "God, pigs."

"We've failed. We must flee."

And he brought out Leary flares, which you only use in times of distress in the middle of an ocean, which he set off in the harbor, and some of them fell onto boats and that caused mayhem.

I said to Hunter, "When are we going to the fight?"

"We're not, Ralph. I sold the tickets." "What?"

He went down to the pool, threw the grass into the pool and dived straight into it.

We couldn't go and see the fight.

The only way I could go and see it was on television, which I did in the bar.

The moment the fight was over, everybody just wanted to get out of Zaire.

"We must get out of here. We must flee."

It's a good way to do stuff, for no good reason.

Another of Hunter's phrases.

"Why are we doing this, Hunter?" "For no good reason, Ralph."

What I seem to have become is a kind of visual chronicler of a part of Hunter.

I had personified him.

That was like a comic character.

He'd got a cigarette holder. Had to have it. It was part of the outfit.

And he had all those things and I gave them all to him.

'Cause he didn't like the idea that anyone was going to outwit him in any way, you know, that he would...

He's in charge. He's the writer. I'm just an artist.

I'm Edward.

He has a bird called Edward, such a marvelous character...

I think Hunter tormented it, but I think there was a kind of two-way affection or something going on.

Edward, talk to me. No?

Hunter would use it, I think, to bounce off, you know.

He'd use it as a kind of victim, you know, something to bring into the story and how he was feeling about it, who was the bird.

I suppose at some point I, in a way, became the bird, you know.


Now we're going to talk, Edward. Speak to me. Yes.

I feel like Edward sometimes, in a situation, I feel absolutely taken apart, as though he's had a whole session of talking to me, you know, holding me like a bird and I'm trying to bite my way out of it.

And that was our relationship, actually.

It was ill-treatment, you know, that he gave me.

Speak up, Edward, speak up. Speak up! Talk to me!

He could be an absolute son of a bitch, you know, and left me sometimes in a right state.

The basis of Ralph and Hunter's friendship was that they saw kindred spirits in each other.

I think that the difference was that Hunter realized that Ralph was crazier than him.

Ralph was willing to go to extremes that Hunter was not willing to, and you'd think Hunter would be the one who was the, you know, more outrageous and reckless and the one who would go out on a limb on something.

But Ralph was the one who'd actually go there.

I'm not talking about physical safety.

But I'm talking about sort of, you know, mental, moral, philosophical, take a chance with your own work.

I think America is where all that was going wrong in the world was being nurtured.

Blast the hell out of North Vietnam...

Do you agree? Absolutely.

If anything, before the election, we're gonna bomb more, believe me.

It seemed to me they needed attacking.

It was something that absolutely had to be done.

So it had fallen to me to do this.

It was my duty to change the world.

I'd always thought I wanted to change the world.

Now was the moment.

Ralph was willing to say anything about anybody.

I mean, his moral sensibility was affronted and he would just say so, he wouldn't stop.

And thus in a certain sense insane, willing to, you know, go to the limits of what was appropriate, beyond the limits of what was appropriate and what was sanity, and dangerous in that way.

Because people have gotta know whether or not their president's a crook.

Well, I'm not a crook.

I had found my voice and I wasn't at all afraid anymore.

I was going to use it as a weapon.

One continually lives in hope and that you are coming along as a sort of knight in shining armor and you're going to do your best.

In a way, you're being rather self-righteous.

But be proud of the fact that you are attempting to put right what really is wrong.

Since then Steadman has gone back and forth, contributing regularly to the pages of Rolling Stone magazine, recording some of the significant political events and personalities of American life.

His output is prolific.

He even writes Rolling Stone's occasional gardening column.

Yeah, I wanted to write.


And having Hunter saying to me, "Don't write, Ralph.

"You'll bring shame on your family."

That spurred me on and I thought, "No, bugger you."

She's my love She's my life It's really such a pity that she's someone else's wife She's my love...

Thank you for ringing. I'm not here at the moment.

I'm busy writing a book and I'll ring you later. Thanks.

I need a couple of drinks, actually, to start on this, really do.

What is the time now, by the way?

12:00. Right.

The task I set myself was filled with such challenge that I feared the very touching of the wall.

At times I was overcome with desperate fear and dared not mar the whiteness there before me.

And I began to paint upon the wall itself on 6th June, 1505, at the stroke of the 13th hour.

At the moment of putting the brush upon the wall, the skies darkened and the bells started to toll.

Leonardo da Vinci was a genius.

In fact, Sigmund Freud said he was the man who woke up in the dark.

I thought, "Am I knowledgeable enough to know anything

"about such a man as Leonardo da Vinci?"

There must be loads of people around who have done books about Leonardo da Vinci.

And I found there were more than most people have ever been written about.

So how can I possibly write a book that was different?

How many books have you read about Leonardo?

I suppose I've been through about 50, and I'm none the wiser. I don't know a damn thing.

About halfway through I suddenly thought, "What if I call myself 'I, Leonardo'?"

And so I became Leonardo.

It was 16th of December, 1982.

The angle for my book on Leonardo da Vinci.

I would write it in the first person.

I would look through his eyes.

Only I will know what it felt like.

No experts can tell me.

This allows me artistic license and affords me the luxury of telling my life story without all the doubt that accompanies most biographies about me.

The reason I chose Leonardo as a subject was because of something he said, that genius was the capacity for taking pains.

In a way I recognized something of me in him, that I was trying hard to be something rather special.

And that's not swanky-ing about it.

It's just trying to do something as definitively as I possibly could that served the purpose it was intended to serve.

He was fascinated by why things worked and how interrelated they all were.

Everything that he designed and invented were the result of thinking about life itself.

I think the most significant thing that Leonardo did, that makes him so special, was that he came out with something that probably other people had dreamed of, and that was how to fly.

I devised a simple flying harness whereby myself, or someone who might fit the harness willingly, would soar out from some eminence.

The parachute invented by Leonardo would have been, you know, a triangular... Like a pyramid.

But then he came out with a cleverer idea, which was the glider.

It flies, but I don't.

You know, I learned a lot from him. I learned a lot from...

This is how I got an education.

I didn't have an education before I started doing stuff.

And, you know, I mean, I left school with zilch.


I went to Abergele Grammar School.

The headmaster's name was D.B. Jones.

He was such a sweet, gentle man.

After D.B. Jones retired, we got a new headmaster, Dr. Hubert Hughes.

He took over and authority became very important for him, and caning boys.

My head is down because, in a peculiar way, I felt that school was in some ways a rather authoritative process.

And that's when I coined a phrase which was, "Authority is the mask of violence."

I can't stand bullies, and there have been so many of them and they've been always in positions of power.

I'm afraid I find that frankly unforgivable.

The desire to shock is also a way of getting back at authority.

That idea that, "Righto, you owe me."

You scared the living daylights out of me as a kid with your awful way of dealing with children and school.

I was trying to hurt the thing that hurt me, if you like.

It's the key to opening the door into my dark spirit inside and out comes the drawing that some people call vicious and all sorts of other names, or perceptive even.


It's like a filter somewhere inside me that lets it through and onto paper, and the anger is expressed.

It doesn't matter that I'm pleasant one minute and then I'm suddenly vitriolic the next.

They go together. It's perfect.

Well, this is a little booklet I put together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And so it's introduced and illustrated by me.

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

Article 5. No one shall be subject to torture or cruel...

Article 6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination...

Nothing in this declaration may be interpreted as implying for any state, any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction...

People actually had the balls, had the foresight, had the understanding of human nature, to say, "We don't just talk about it. We write it down."

Then we remind ourselves of what human rights are.

What I'll try to do is draw things because I'm angry at these people who are cheated and swindled.

That's who my enemy is. That's my object, the object of my protest.

I just wanted to be taken seriously as an artist who was doing serious cartoons.

The age of miracles.

A pocket-sized, folding, electronically controlled, motor-driven, single-lens reflex camera that quite simply does the impossible.

Come a bit closer.

Focus. Train.

Touch the electric button...

And the impossible happens.

In minutes, you have a finished photograph of dazzling beauty.

That is the Polaroid SX-70 experience.

Yeah, that's better.

Ready? Yeah.

It worked. There's no film in it.

I wanna do it again.

In 1996, I published With Nails, which was a compilation of film diaries, and I wanted the fly covers on the inside of the book, the back and the front.

I thought it'd be a good idea as Ralph was so emblematic to Withnail.

I asked Ralph if he could come up with a drawing or some idea.

And he said, "Come down and we'll do paranoids."

He took pictures of well-known people, or characters like Bela Lugosi or John Travolta, and then would stick them on my face.

That one worked. Yeah.

Okay, we're onto something now.

Now, let me play with these ones for a minute.

And then work on the Polaroid when it was still warm and fiddle around so that the two images melded together.

They're directly on the...

Done onto the film. Onto the film.

While it's still... While it's still...

I was after getting the real person and then doing something to it.

I was actually trying to get a good picture of somebody, then distorting it, to look like one of my drawings.

It was the essence of my work to distort and yet maintain the likeness.

I thought, this is great, so I just fiddled with each one I did, and made that happen, made them move in an expressive way.

And I thought, "Well, that speaks to me as my kind of drawing."

That's what I like, you know.

So I started doing them of the Queen and Princess Di.

And that was Fergie, which I thought, "That's coming out well."

And I thought, "I've got a book here."

So I did a book of it.

Anyway, they all came out like that, and there was one, and it's this one.

We were at the Jerome Hotel in Aspen, and there was a sort of reception and David Hockney had been invited as well.

And then I saw David in the bar.

So I went up behind him, had the camera ready, and I said, "David."

And he turned round like that and I went "Click, bash!"

And the thing hit him, you see.

And he said, "It won't come out, you know."

Goddamn know-all.

It came out as one of the best, actually.

Can I pick it up?

Does this sound distorted to you?


The war file...

One more time. Sorry, Ralph.

The war file, 1963, 2003.

I protest, I protest, I protest, I protest vehemently against the war.

I protest vehemently against the war.

I'm seeking out every drawing I've done since the '60s, which in one way or another displays the irony of our crass stupidity.

I will miss some things. There are so many.

I know nothing will be solved, but I do it for my sanity and world peace.

Our leaders are mindless, arrogant and insane.

The thing about Ralph's work is it was just the energy, the anger, the venom that was just spewed out, and that's what I loved.

I wish I'd had that kind of ability to explode like Ralph does and still control it at the same time.

The problem with protest is we were the protesters and we got old and we got tired.

We screamed and shouted and we did change the world to some degree, but not as much as we'd like.

And that leads to depression and a sort of sense of semi-impotence, which I think after a while begins to just wear you down.

You realize that you did make these changes and you see a new generation of people coming up who are the beneficiaries of a lot of the noise we made, and they don't give a damn, they don't give a toss.

They're into shopping.

So it gets very hard to know what to do with this.

Ralph can't stop. I don't think I can stop.

We'll go to our graves shouting and screaming and making noise and nobody will listen.

To John Dillinger and I hope he is still alive.

Thanksgiving Day, November 28th, 1986.

Thanks for the wild turkey and the passenger pigeons destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil and poison.

Thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin, leaving the carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes.

Thanks for the American Dream to vulgarize and falsify.

Like 1987, '88, around then, I was asked to do these records with William Burroughs, and that was so connected to the world of Hunter and Ralph.

And, of course, Ralph adored this when he heard it.

He liked the beginning and the montage.

You know, it was all these worlds meeting.

Thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for prohibition and the war against drugs.

Thanks for a country where nobody is allowed to mind his own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the memories.

All right, let's see your arms.

You always were a headache and you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

'Cause that type of writing, that type of drawing, is very admirable to me, 'cause in an odd way it's what we're thinking at the back of our heads but aren't capable of getting it out.

These guys have the kind of minds that that comes out of them.

I mean, look at Ralph as a person.

You never met a warmer, generous...

He is not his paintings.

I don't know.

Everything's here except the guns. Guns?

Everything's here except the guns.

He can hardly walk. Yeah.

They must be in the car.

We found a spot where he does his shooting. He likes to shoot.

And that's where we set up the target.


When it stays open, it's empty, see?

Yeah. Right.

Understand? Yes.

Okay. Just about.

So he comes forward and he was quite trembly by this time and...

Two, three, four, five, six, seven.

Here I go.

And he goes...

Empties six rounds, you see, like that.

There, you cut his head off.

I said, "Well, William, you've missed," you know.

They all went through his neck, you see. So he said...

He's dead, man.

One of the privileges working with Hunter and William Burroughs was they were perverse in many ways and yet incredibly honest.

I think what attracted me to them was the fact that they were honest writers, writing about real things that they actually experienced.

So in some ways one would say they were journalist-writers.

They wrote about what happened to them. Yeah.

Isn't it awful? It's awful.

And look how I look, as though I'm, you know, in control.

Exactly. And I'm not.

How many copies of this got out?

About four million.

No, no, no, no, no.

Christ, he always puts me down in this terrible way.

I'm shutting this off for a minute 'cause I'm pissed off.

So, Ralph, was that the last time you saw Hunter, at Owl Farm?

Yes, that was the last time. That was... That was October...

September, October, 2004.

I had one blowup today in my pants, and this is another blowup! Stop it. Stop it.

So you keep doing it... Stop it!

Don't do that. Please don't shout about it.

I don't come into your house and copy all your fucking drawings and then take them out and run away with me, do I?

I'm not doing that.

Go on! Fucking well do something, for Christ's sake!

You miserable son of a bitch. What the hell are you trying to do?

Sitting here in this goddamn place!

I think Ralph loved Hunter and was hoping that Hunter would be something he couldn't be, a little more responsible and a little more careful and a little more generous.

Day one. The English artist Ralph Steadman sets off with a BBC film crew for Aspen, Colorado, to meet an old friend.

The intermingling of the commentary was so great.

It was like, you know, jealous brothers, or partners like Keith and Mick or something like that, that just, you know, was gonna blow apart.

What I had presented myself as was a ready answer to all your problems.

And I took it quite readily, and that's why you illustrated the book.

It wasn't the only reason, Hunter. It wasn't the only reason.

No one would have noticed it had it not been for my illustrations.

No one.

What you're saying, Ralph, is that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas would not have been a...

The success it was.

A success if it hadn't been illustrated by you?

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Yeah, that's the story, in fact.

The story that was never told was the story of my resentment, my burning desperate resentment. That explains a lot, doesn't it?


I think in Hunter's heart, he loved Ralph.

Ralph was a brother to Hunter.

And they were two wonderful characters and they had a great collaboration and friendship.

But sometimes those things tend to break apart, especially when you've got irascible personalities and particularly when you have, you know, Hunter's, you know, problem with drink and drugs.

You don't care? I do care, actually.

You know that, Hunter, but it's been a fucking hard ride for all sorts of reasons.

Who do you wanna beat on? For fuck's sake.

Hang on. I'm gonna stop this thing now, 'cause I can't talk to you like this.

Yeah, you get out of here. What?

I'm starting to feel queer. Christ.

He just realized this was the death of fun.

There was no more fun.

And the idea of going into an old people's home, Hunter S. Thompson in an old people's home, can you imagine?

And he said, "I can't bear the idea, Ralph.

"I've got this awful image in my mind of

"me sitting there strapped into the wheelchair."

They'd have to strap him in. Couldn't keep him in it.

They'd strap him in the wheelchair.

And he couldn't move.

And he could see out of the corner of his eye, there was an old crone and she was crawling across the floor towards him, and he knew, instinctively, she was going to fondle his balls.

His wife, Anita, went off to the health club and she rang and said, "Hi, honey."

And then there was a certain faraway sound, as though she wasn't necessarily up to the phone, when he put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

And that was it.

Now, his son thought he heard a book drop.

'Cause it goes like that.

Quite ironic, really, when you think. Yeah.

Yeah, well, it was kind of that. He sort of...

The way I... Same thing, the way I came to terms with it was that this was a man who dictated the way he was gonna live his life.

He was most certainly gonna dictate the way he left.

Yeah. And he did, you know.

He did exactly that, yeah. So...

It's sad, really. Very.

I did love Hunter and I miss him quite a lot.

Rather a lot, actually.

Because he took away, when he did what he did to himself, he took with him the raison d'ĂȘtre for the kind of work we did together.

It wasn't gonna happen again.

It was the finality of it that perhaps is the most shocking part for me.

Because that's what happens to everything.

It disappears eventually.

A lot of people want a piece of Ralph's art, and Ralph holds onto most of his originals, because he just does not want to let them go.

And this way somebody can get a piece of Ralph's original artwork.

Yeah, they are original. Each one is an original.

And each one's an original because I sign each one separately and number it out of an edition.

So that becomes the edition, and the edition can be worth quite a lot of money.

I'm a printmaker and we sell prints to, you know, Ralph's collectors all over the world.

It gives me a feeling of hope that, you know, I can keep the original and I can still make money.

But I don't think that it's good for me, in a way.

Because it represses my spirit, my natural spirit, to just do another drawing.

And I think there's something about that which perhaps I don't like, the idea that I'm not only gonna sign this once and then maybe twice, or do the same drawing twice, I'm gonna sign 800 of them.

Gonzo will not die.

Ralph continues to keep Hunter alive and Hunter keeps Ralph alive.

You know, the two together. Yeah.

There's the sunshine coming in.

Right. It's coming through?

Testing, testing.

One, two, three, four.

So, Ralph, how you doing?

I don't know. I'm feeling a bit down, I think, really, somehow. Yeah.

Apprehensive, anxious.

And I just don't know what...

It's partly to do with getting older, you know.

You don't know how... How long it goes on.

And, I don't know, I woke up in the middle of the night and needed to go to the loo and felt...

I don't know, I think I felt slightly meaningless.

That's the problem, I find, that things are a little bit on the meaningless side.

And why was I ever bothered to do anything about it? Sure.

Why did I ever try to change the world?

But it was... it was something to do, you know, change the world.

I left Ralph's with my mind reeling from the sheer volume of a lifetime's ideas and images, uplifted and inspired by an artist's efforts to change the world.

Look, you know, you've come here asking me this and asking me that, asking me everything else.

And as I go through things, I suddenly realize I've done too much in my life.

Really, what was the point of all that?

There is no need to do any more and yet I probably may do some more, and I don't really think it's a good idea because you become a polluter, you know, a visual polluter.

How about that?

And I still haven't proved that I'm an artist.

Somehow I'm a cartoonist to some, and that's...

The cartoonist.

It's amazing to see an artist as they jump into the unknown, commit to the impossible.

Make no mistake, Ralph.

You are an inspiration.

For no good reason.

Is that all right?