“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”
-Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson (a.k.a. Dr. Gonzo) was one of the most influential political and social writers of this past century, but there’s more to him than his excellent sense of humor and run-on style of a life teetering off the edge.
Nobody would cover a story quite like Hunter Thompson. His personal involvement in his stories made him an outsider scoping the outer frontier of journalism and he would become the leading figure in the movement known as new journalism. That said, because of his fame there are many incarnations of characters based on Hunter Thompson in pop culture, like Gary Trudeau’s comic strip Doonsbury.
In her post Fear and Loathing on the Blog Writing Trail: Why Depp is King, Stephanie Lauglin claims that not only is Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) is better than Bill Murray’s tackling of the same role in Where the Buffalo Roam (1980), but that Terry Gilliam’s more recent Thompson flick is better overall.
Well, at this point, my attorney has advised me to disagree (it’s in both movies, watch them). For one thing, while it’s true that Fear and Loathing is more focus, it only focuses on one text!
Instead, Where The Buffalo Roam takes bits and pieces from that same text as well as Hunter Thompson’s early work like Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail â€˜72 and The Great Shark Hunt. But most importantly incorporated in then story is an obituary written for Oscar Zeta Acosta, the attorney activist and life long friend of Thompson, entitled Where the The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat.
Another reason why Buffalo stands out as a great movie is the relationship between the two men; this is really the main focus of the film.
Rather than just a taste of their insanity, as seen in the road driving and hotel smashing of Fear and Loathing, we get a more complicated in depth look at their partnership. In Buffalo Roam, the attorney is more than a figment of Thompson’s mind, he is an activist, a lawyer looking to defend the people against corporate interests and state prohibitions! Peter Boyle’s portrayal of Oscar Zeta gives us a more defined character.
Thirdly, I think Bill Murray’s acting is impeccably accurate. Murray highlights the man who other reporters would turn to on the campaign trail. The man who had complete control even while on drugs. He was the man, according to the documentary Gonzo, that was reliable source for many who traveled with him in the press-corps.
Bill Murray’s portrayal of Hunter Thompson is excellent and is way beyond the caricature of Depp’s version. Not to put that version down, though. You have to keep mind that Depp’s version is in fact the fictitious character created by Thompson for the gonzo style of Fear and Loathing In Las Vega while Buffalo Roam is based on the actual events from a eulogy published for his friend. As a character in a book, Depp’s version was definitely well executed. Johnny Depp is one hell of an actor!
How well did Murray play Thompson? Well, at the time Thompson consider him to be one of his only trusted friends, according to some sources. Does this explain why Thompson tied Murray to a chair and threw him into a pool, almost downing him? No, it doesn’t. But that’s not the point, is it? Thompson was at times crazy as he was poetic. Murray not only immersed himself in that character, but was so caught up in his character that it took him three weeks into the beginning of the Saturday Night Live season to break out of Thompson’s character!
Both of these movies are great. One is a bio pic,the other is based on one of the greatest Thompson Novels. They are great for what they are. Where the Buffalo Roam does an excellent job of depicting Thompson on the Campaign trail, it shows that he was an outsider, even having to ride with the technicians after getting kicked off the journalist plane. In it, Bill Murray is Hunter Thompson, press corps outsider. I rest my case!