Art, man. That’s the subject of the Ralph Steadman documentary now in theaters. Johnny Depp joins his friend and together they explore the artist’s vibrant career including his time with Hunter S. Thompson.
The 1969 Kentucky Derby is a significant event in Steadman’s life. It was there that he met Hunter S. Thompson for the first time and it was there that Gonzo journalism was born. They continued working together for 40 years and produced some sensational art and stories.
Excerpt from “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”
by Hunter S. Thompson.
By this time Ralph wouldn’t order coﬀee; he kept asking for more water. “It’s the only thing
they have that’s ﬁt for human consumption,” he explained. Then, with an hour or so to kill
before he had to catch the plane, we spread his drawings out on the table and pondered
them for a while, wondering if he’d caught the proper spirit of the thing…but we couldn’t
make up our minds. His hands were shaking so badly that he had trouble holding the paper,
and my vision was so blurred that I could barely see what he’d drawn. “Shit,” I said. “We
both look worse than anything you’ve drawn here.”
He smiled. “You know–I’ve been thinking about that,” he said. “We came down here to see
this teddible scene: people all pissed out of their minds and vomitting on themselves and all
that…and now, you know what? It’s us…”
Depp, good friends with both Steadman and Thompson, narrates the film and engages with Steadman on screen, watching him paint and explicate his process.
I go out of my way to make something that is as unexpected to me as it is to anyone else. If I knew what was going to happen before I started, what would be the point in doing it?
Depp’s subtle appearance doesn’t offer much in terms of his own artistic expression but throughout the actor’s career, he’s certainly proved his artistry on screen. Pirates of the Caribbean franchise aside, Depp’s been involved with some very original storytelling including Jim Jarmusch’s post modern western, Dead Man.
Steadman, Thompson and Depp all offer an original voice to the world of art, literature and cinema and it’s worth breaking away from the mainstream to experience a unique point of view.