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Courtesy of Itch Film Among his many accomplishments, Ralph Steadman illustrated Hunter S. Thompson's 1971 novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, about a journalist's reporting trip turned hallucinogenic bender.
Every morning, British illustrator Ralph
Steadman wakes up in his country estate in rural England and attacks a
piece of paper, hurling ink, blowing paint through a straw and
scratching away layers to reveal lines and forms that surprise even him.
Hunter S. Thompson (left) and Ralph Steadman's first collaboration was on a story about the Kentucky Derby.
Steadman is known, in part, for his work with
writer Hunter S. Thompson, a collaboration that would come to be known
as "gonzo journalism," where the tale-teller becomes the tale. Beginning
in 1970, the duo produced books, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and several articles for Rolling Stone and
other magazines. Thompson killed himself in 2005, but at 76, Steadman
continues to work; and his ink-splattered, anarchic drawings, paintings
and caricatures continue to inspire artists and musicians on both sides
of the Atlantic.
Now, For No Good Reason,
a new documentary that's been 15 years in the making, takes a close and
personal look at Steadman's life, rise to prominence and irreverent
approach to art.
Case in point: One scene in
the film shows Steadman and beat writer William S. Burroughs using
Steadman's drawings for target practice. It's not so much "creative
destruction" as "destructive creativity." The film's director, Charlie
"He believes that by taking it to a point of no return at the very beginning, he has nothing to lose," Paul says.
The Right 'Venom' For Professional Chemistry Hunter S. Thompson's presence permeates For No Good Reason.
The film's recurring telephone ring marks how most of Thompson and
Steadman's collaborative jaunts began — with a call from the writer.
Then there's the title, which was pulled from something Thompson said
whenever Steadman asked why they were going on a particular errand,
chase or quest: "No good reason at all, Ralph."
In the film, Rolling Stone's co-founder
Jann Wenner explains why he felt Steadman's art illustrated Thompson's
caustic, stream-of-altered-consciousness reportage better than any
"The thing about Ralph's
work — it was just the energy, the anger, the venom that was just spewed
out," he says. "And that's what I loved."
says he could keep up with Thompson's drinking, but never had much use
for the drugs. Thompson never met a substance — or politician — he
couldn't abuse in pursuit of his brand of journalism, and his
relationship with Steadman was difficult. Still, Thompson's suicide hit
The actor Johnny Depp serves
as a guide in the film. Depp, who was a friend of both men, starred in
the movie based on Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In For No Good Reason, both Depp and Steadman try to make sense of Thompson's suicide.
way I came to terms with it was that this is a man who dictated the way
he was going to live his life," Depp says in the film. "He was most
certainly going to dictate the way he left."
In Search Of Someone To Fear And Loathe The press launch for For No Good Reason
was held in an enclosed, jungle-themed courtyard — complete with a
rushing stream and the occasional bird squawk issuing from unseen
speakers — at London's Barbican Center.
Producer Lucy Paul says even the youngest, hottest musicians instantly signed on when they heard the film was about Steadman. "Somehow, Ralph reaches the whole, kind of, creative world, on all spectrums," she says.
person, Steadman has twinkling eyes and a kindly manner — it seems that
all his rage is channeled through his art. The illustrator also
contributed to Thompson's Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail, about the 1972 U.S. election. He shakes his head regretfully at the lack of grist for the satirical mill in the 2012 race.
"The problem is there are no Nixons around at the moment," Steadman says. "That's what we need — we need a real good Nixon."
Steadman's pen, then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon leans over a
podium, his nose morphing into a vulpine snout. Steadman longs for a
contemporary figure that would inspire, well, fear and loathing, "to
give something for other people to get their teeth into," he says, "to
really ... loathe him, to become themselves more effective as opposition leaders." Today
he says he still approaches every blank sheet of paper with no
expectations, and with the same blazing desire that first drew him to
cartooning five decades ago. He talks about wanting to change the world.
"And I think I have changed the world, because you know what? It's worse now than it was when I started!" he says, laughing.