Brian Kevin talks about his book “The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America”

Brian Kevin is a writer who contributes to magazines, websites travel guidebooks. He is also the associate editor at Down East magazine and the author of “The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America”. Media Mikes had the chance to chat with Brian about his journey through South America and how Hunter S. Thompson inspired it.

Mike Gencarelli: When did you first find the work of Hunter S. Thompson?
Brian Kevin: I came to Thompson via Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas back in 1998, which I think is true of a lot of people my age (I’m 34). In the book, I describe the film as kind of a dorm room standard during the late ’90s, when I was a college student, and I’ve since praised it in other forums (http://goo.gl/kL3jl2) as really one of the more faithful literary adaptations in recent cinema. So that kind of piqued my interest in Thompson’s work — who the fuck is this guy? what could this possibly look like on the page? — and I spent the next couple years catching up on the Thompson canon.

MG: Tell us what made you decided to take this yearlong journey across South America?
BK: I’d read enough to know that Thompson had spent this year abroad in the early 1960s, reporting on Cold War issues from South America, and it occurred to me this must have been a pretty pivotal time in the life of a writer I admired. But for all the unauthorized biographies and oral histories and documentaries and other materials out there about Thompson’s life and work (particularly after his death in 2005), his year as a foreign correspondent hardly warranted a mention. I was curious enough to dig through a couple of microfiche archives and unearth the articles he wrote from South America, most of which hadn’t seen the light of day for fifty years. The more I looked into it, the more I admired Thompson’s gall for just up and hitting the road, trying to will himself a writing career. I had kind of gone a safer route — some entry-level magazine jobs, then grad school — and I was feeling like it hadn’t gotten me anywhere. Around the same time I was digging up Thompson’s forgotten South American reportage, I suddenly found myself divorced, functionally unemployed, and sitting on a mountain of student loan debt. So I did the only rational thing and traded in a bunch of frequent fliers miles for a ticket to Colombia to follow the Thompson Trail.

MG: What was it like to revisit the places where HST lived and worked?
BK: A lot of people see the title of the book and kind of assume I was carousing my way across the continent in some kind of wanna-be-gonzo fog, but I actually couldn’t be less interested in that. To me, it was all fieldwork — I wanted to revisit the topics that Thompson wrote about for the National Observer fifty years ago and, in the process, get some insight into what he learned in South America that shaped him as a writer and a human being. For all his later gonzo persona, Thompson at 24 was whip smart and super disciplined about understanding the forces shaping Latin America during the Cold War. So traveling in his footsteps meant giving myself a crash course in Latin American history, culture, politics, and ecology. And yeah, that fieldwork sometimes involved drinking heavily with miners, capsizing a boat in Colombia, and patronizing a Paraguayan brothel (sort of), but it really was all in the name of education.

MG: What did you find was the most interesting find of your exploration of twenty-first-century South American culture, politics, and ecology?
BK: Well, the surprising thing was the extent to which the issues that Thompson reported on fifty years ago are still very much shaping the continent. Thompson wrote about Peru’s struggles to overcome a powerful political oligarchy, for example, and that’s still very much the story of Peruvian politics today. He wrote about Brazil as this sleeping giant shackled by inflation, and fifty years later, that’s still arguably the biggest economic story playing out in South America. He more or less predicted the rise of the FARC in Colombia and the ascendancy of cambas in eastern Bolivia and a bunch of other story lines that are still unraveling in 2014. In a nutshell, the interesting thing in country after country was how present the ghosts of the Cold War still are — and that made Thompson’s ghost feel very present as well.

MG: Do you feel that you yourself have changed after this exploration?
BK: You know, I reflect on this a little in the book, and the answer is tricky. A lot of the book ends up being about travel itself — about the reasons people give themselves for picking up stakes and about their expectations of what they’ll come home with. Often, this includes some kind of transformation. People want to come home changed in some profound way, and I’m not convinced this isn’t kind of a bullshit goalpost. My time on the Thompson Trail gave me an education, which is really what we should be after anyway.

MG: What do you think it takes to be a “gonzo journalist” in today’s world?
BK: I think this is a term that starts and ends with Thompson. I don’t think “gonzo journalism” is a form or a genre that a writer can just opt into. It’s one specific writer’s style — Thompson’s — and while it can certainly be imitated, the results are almost uniformly shitty. But I do think that the best nonfiction writers working today approach their subjects with the same fearlessness and unorthodoxy and humor and personal investment that were all critical components of “gonzo.”

MG: Do you have a follow up planned for “The Footloose American”?
BK: Yeah, there are a couple of projects in the hopper. One is a deep profile of this globetrotting, nineteenth-century Forrest Gump-type character who destroyed everything he touched, and the other is a sort of a combination road trip tale and education expose. I realize both of these sound a bit weird and cryptic, but you’ll just have to take my word that they’re fun and interesting, and I’ll be all for saying more when they’re a little farther along.

Ralph Steadman talks about his work with Hunter S. Thompson and film “For No Good Reason”

Ralph Steadman is a British Gonzo artist that is best known for his work with American author Hunter S. Thompson, author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. After meeting each other in 1970 to cover the Kentucky Derby, Steadman and Thompson formed a long-time relationship. Steadman’s did the artwork for Thompson’s books over his career. He is also an author himself having written numerous books focusing on his drawings…or as Hunter would have called it his “filthy scribblings”, according to Ralph. This April, “For No Good Reason” makes its U.S. debut in NYC, which is a documentary on Ralph’s career. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ralph about the film and his work with Hunter S. Thompson.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got approached for the documentary “From No Good Reason”?
Ralph Steadman: The director Charlie Paul initially came down to see me, then the producer Lucy Paul. This was over a period of twelve years, you know. They would stay for lunch, we would talk and then we would carry on. So over twelve years, we made this film. It just seems so long ago from when we first started it. They got Johnny Depp involved, which was good because he has become a personal friend of mine over the years. He is such a great guy, easy going, warm, genuine and terrific fellow…
MG: I loved Johnny’s narration in the film as well, very nice touch.
RS: Oh yeah, it was lovely. I agree.

MG: How did you feel about having a documentary about your life done?
RS: I first thought “For God’s sake…why?” “For no good reason”…that is what Hunter would have said. I used to always ask “Why are we doing this Hunter?” and he would always say “For no good reason, Ralph” [laughs].

MG: How was it seeing some of your drawings brought to life and illustrated in the film?
RS: That was quite interesting. I couldn’t be an animator in old Disney way when they used to draw one picture and then other but slightly different and then you would put them together like a flip book and they would actually move. The only thing I liked like that was doing something simple like a dot or a splat and putting it in a book form and flipping it and watching it move, that to me was magic. I like doing that kind of thing. But seeing my drawings in the film was really great.

MG: I find it so interesting that you said in the film that your work is unprofessional and “it is as unexpected to me as it is to anyone else”; can you talk about this aspect?
RS: Yeah, that is because I don’t do any pencil work. I never plan anything. I just begin and the drawing becomes what it becomes. My reaction every time is “I don’t know how I did that”. I am always amazed. “How the fuck did I do that?”, I usually say. It’s like Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea that only thing of value is that thing that you cannot say but you can see it. I like that a lot.

MG: So how did your splatter technique come about then?
RS: Oh that was clumsiness. I was clumsy. I said “Oh shit” when I flicked my wrist with my pen but I realized it made this beautiful sweep of blots. I thought to myself them “Oh I like that, it’s quite nice” So I started to use it more deliberately. I would spill ink all over the place. I liked the idea of putting a sheet of paper on the studio floor taking a bottle of ink high on a ladder and dropping it. Not all of it…but just enough. It would make terrific, radiating splatters of different designs. Then you look and think “Hmm, it could be a spider” and I would go from there.

MG: Looking back at the film now, how do you feel that it has come together?
RS: I was amazed by it actually. After twelve years, it was nice to see it all come together. They did cut out a few things that I would have liked them to keep in like my art teacher, Leslie Richardson. This was a pity since I really wanted him in it. What they were after was the notoriety including the fame of Johnny Depp. So poor Leslie Richardson, who is now 93, was left out. But he still goes around kicking old ladies and children in the streets [laughs].

MG: Tell us how you originally crossed paths with Hunter Thompson?
RS: When I was planning to come to New York in 1970, I had some friends that invited me to stay with them in the Hampton’s. They were soon to be married, so I felt a little uncomfortable saying with them for a long period of time. So after staying a little while, I was going to leave for the city and I was about to leave when there was a cal from a guy named J.C. Suarez. He was an editor from Brooklyn. He wanted me to come to Kentucky and meet an ex-Hells Angels, who just shaved his head. I asked why did he do that and he said “Why? Because he’s a Hells Angels. He is a rebel”. So I asked “What for?” He told me that he was not only looking for a photographer but for an artist and they saw my book of pictures called “Still Life with Raspberry”, which was my first book of collected drawings. Don Goddard was the foreign editor of The New York Times and he had found the book in England and then came back and said that they need to put me with Hunter Thompson. So that is how it happened.

MG: Do you feel that your career would have been different if your path’s didn’t cross?
RS: As far as I was concerned, meeting Hunter and going to Kentucky was a bulls eye for me. For all the people that I could meet in America, he would be the one…go figure. Meeting Hunter was the best thing for me in terms of making a career. What we did for journalism was that we became the story and that became know as gonzo journalism. That was really what was so good about it. One day, this guy Bill Cardoso told us that the Kentucky Derby piece we did was “pure gonzo”. Hunter never heard the word before and it really stuck. He used to say “Don’t do those filthy scribblings”. He used to call my drawings filthy scribblings [laughs]. He used to also tell me “Don’t write Ralph, you will bring shame on your family”. But he always loved to sort of go against you but on purpose because he would know that it would provoke me and my work would benefit.

MG: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is one of my favorite books and the movie is great as well…
RS: The thing is people get too sniffy about the movie and things like that. They say that it is not quite this or quite that. No! It is a version of the book. I didn’t mind it, especially since the whole damn thing, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was a crazy idea to begin with.

MG: Do you recall how long it took you to complete the illustrations for the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” book?
RS: I think I did nine pictures in a week and it was done. The rotten thing was that I ended up selling all of the originals since I was told it would be a good career move. I think I got $75 dollars each for them. Can you imagine what they are worth now?

MG: Has your drawings been affected since the death of Hunter S. Thompson?
RS: No, not really. I have been doing bird drawings for the last few years. I don’t like drawing politicians any more, I can’t be bothered. They are so awful. I don’t feel so bitter about it. I do not feel like I am trying to change the world. I have changed the world enough since I started and it is worse now than when I started [laughs]. So good, I have done what I had meant to do [laughing]

MG: Yeah, you start off the film saying you set out to “change the world”; I was going to ask if you felt that you have accomplished that goal?
RS: We’ll you look around, I have done my part but bloody computers have changed everything.The business and also people in general. You can’t walk down a side street without somebody passing you by and they are not looking at you or around them, they are looking down at their phone. I had to go on a train recently to Halifax for a show of my drawings and there was this woman on the train that was a good example. She had red hair which was long down one side and shaved on the other side. I have a drawing of it in my book here. She was so awful, I had to draw her. But she had her makeup out in one hand and her phone in the other from the moment she got on the train. That is the problem about the invasion of the computer, like Twitter. Everyone wants to tweet you now. So that is very weird to me.

MG: Tell us about your latest book “Proud Too Be Weirrd”?
RS: I collected together a bunch of things that I never had no good reason to use [laughs]. I thought I would start with the first page and go through my studio finding this and finding that and just building the book from there and that is how I worked on it. This guy Steve Crist from AMMO Books got in touch with me about doing it. He used to work at TASCHEN. Benedikt Taschen rang me after the book was made and said he was actually very disappointed because he wanted to do the book, but at the time I didn’t know this. He did my book with Hunter, “The Curse of Lono”. Steve Crist used to work with Benedikt and that’s where he began. He sort of adopted the style of big book like TASCHEN did. I really like the title “Proud Too Be Weirrd” and it is a great book

MG: What are some of the artists that inspire you?
RS: I love Picasso. He is such an inspiration for me. There is a film called “The Mystery of Picasso” that is really worth seeing if you can get a copy. It is fascinating for me to watch him at work. The director, who made the film, was allowed to by Picasso to be in the studio with him. This is what Charlie did with me as well for our film. Picasso would set things up for him including painting on glass and having him film from the other side. This is amazing work and it really continues to inspire me.

MG: Are you working on anything else new currently?
RS: I got a new book of creatures that I am working on right now. These are completely made up creatures for example instead of a pelican; you do a pelicant [laughs]. You have to keep doing something otherwise what is the point. I guess I am taking advice from my father, who couldn’t bear to just sit about. I am also learning how to etch steel plates as well. So I suppose I should continue to carry on.

Matt Thompson talks about writing, directing and starring in “Bloodline”

It worked for Sylvester Stallone. It worked for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. And, if things go well, it’s going to work for Matt Thompson. An actor who does so much more, Thompson found himself in a quandary. You can’t get noticed in Hollywood unless you’re in something but unless you’re in something you can’t get noticed. So he took it upon himself to write and direct the new film, “Bloodline,” which opens today (9/27). He then cast himself in the lead. Take that, Hollywood! While taking time off from his next project Thompson took time out to talk with Media Mikes about his current one.

Mike Smith: Can you give us a quick introduction to “Bloodline?:
Matt Thompson: “Bloodline” is about a seminary student named Brett Ethos, who I play. He falls away from the church only to find out that his bloodline has been cursed, ironically, a couple of hundred years earlier.

MS: What inspired you to write the script?
MT: It was about 10 years ago when I was just starting out. I had talked to a producer and had told him how frustrating it was sometimes. How you have to have something to be in something yet you have to be in something to have something in this industry. It’s truly a Catch 22. I was taking an acting class at the time. He told me that I should write myself into something so I did exactly that. I looked at the horror/thriller genre’ and found it to be incredibly fascinating. It’s one of my favorite genres…it can grip you like no other can. Being from Northern California I had a great interest in Native American legends…I mean you can literally walk out into your back yard and find a grinding stone. It was really a natural fit, to piece together the Native Americans and the settlers and piece together the “Bloodline” idea…to tie in with the Native American legends.

MS: Did you write the film with the intention of both appearing in it and directing as well?
MT: Exactly! You have to have something to be in something. The whole idea was to basically create a vehicle that I could put myself in. In the interim I had written a short film called “Fallen Soldier,” which I also directed. When it was completed friends would encourage me to direct and explore that side of my creativity more.

MS: Is it hard wearing two hats on the set? To concentrate on your performance as an actor while concentrating on everything else as a director?
MT: Oh my God, it’s an incredible task! You kind of have to be schizophrenic in a sense, jumping in and out of, a., being an actor and, b., being a director. In one frame you have to be completely emotionally invested with your co-stars while in another you’re out of the shot and worrying if the lighting is right…if the camera is in the right place. Are the actors delivering? And on top of all that you have to deal with all of these people. You’re not only their co-star and friend but you’re also their boss. There are a hundred different facets in acting and directing at the same time.

MS: You recently completed a run on stage as Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a role considered one of the most iconic ever on the American stage. Is there pressure as an actor to take on a role that well known and so well associated with another actor? And do you take a look at the way other actors have done the role in previous performances?
MT: I knew how big the role was but I didn’t watch the movie. In fact, I didn’t watch the movie until I finished my last performance because I wanted to give Stanley my own spin. He was much more devious…more of a maniacal character. I actually prefer that version at the end of the day, more so then the movie. I mean, of course, hats off. In the movie Brando gives one of the best performances on film of all time, in my opinion. And I did the part because I really wanted to put myself out of my comfort zone and do something that was just really, really hard before going into production on “Bloodline.” I have so much respect for stage actors. Once you’re in that role…in that character….you’re there for two straight hours. There are no cuts…no one is laughing with you at the outtakes. You’re invested. And that’s the kind of discipline I wanted to have when I went after that role.

MS: Great answer. I played Moss in “Glengarry Glen Ross” several years ago..
MT: Nice!
MS:..and I purposely didn’t watch the film until the run was over. And when I watched it there was so much stuff I wish I had done…I could have stole that bit, I could have done that…but then I realized that if I had I would have just been doing an imitation of Ed Harris instead of making the role my own.
MT: (laughs) Exactly!

MS: What are you currently working on?
MT: I’m working on a few things. I have a couple of pilots right now that I’m getting ready to shoot. The biggest project I’m working on now is a crime drama that fits in the realm of “Blow,” “The Departed,” “The Town” and some other movies. It’s about a sheriff’s deputy that goes undercover in a multi-million dollar drug ring, becoming the right hand man to the guy that’s importing all of the cocaine from South America to California. He basically starts out as the shiny penny hero and becomes corrupt in the process. There’s instance after instance and decision after decision where you think “I’ll follow this guy all the way to the dark side.” I’m a big “Breaking Bad” fan and the film is akin to it, I think.

MS: Is this something you would also direct or do you just plan to appear in it?
MT: Right now I’m just concentrating on getting it green lit. I’m not opposed to having someone else direct it as long as they have great credits and a really great vision for the film. This is a project where I’d really like to concentrate on the acting portion so I probably won’t end up directing it. But there’s always the chance.

Jody Thompson talks about working with Barry Levinson on “The Bay”

Jody Thompson is the star in Barry Levinson’s new found-footage horror/thriller “The Bay”, which is being released on November 2nd.  Jody also co-stars this Fall with Bette Midler and Billy Crystal in Parental Guidance”. Jody took out sometime to chat with Media Mikes about his roles and what we can expect from the films.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your character in the film “The Bay”?
Jody Thompson: I play Officer Paul. I liken him to the Barney Fife of the town. It takes place in this really small town and which experiences an ecological outbreak, with these creatures all isopods. These are actually real creatures. These creatures get inside the townspeople and start eating them from the inside out. So if you can imagine Barney Fife with bodies flying through the street, then you have my character.

MG: How was it working with such a critically acclaimed director like Barry Levinson?
JT: It was really the drawing force for me to work on this picture. A chance like that doesn’t come by pretty often, so I was really pumped. Honestly, I put the audition on tape, forgot about it but when I got the call back I was psyched since he is such a well-respected director. It was a great project to be involved with.

MG: Tell us about your story line in the film?
JT: There are about four/five different story line and mine is one of the story lines they follow. It was challenging but the way the film is it works. My story has a bit of an arc but let’s just say it doesn’t end well for my partner and I. Just to be able to grab on to something like that I feel like I was able to work with this role a bit. So I thought it was really great.

MG: How was it working with Kristen Connolly, whom I loved in “Cabin in the Woods”?
JT: I did not. It sucks. I worked with Christopher Denham though and he recently had a really big part in “Argo”. So it was cool to work with him on this.

MG: The found footage genre is very hot right now, how does this film stand out from the rest?
JT: I always thought it was a little hokey in the found footage films, when someone is in the house but they keep the camera running. I would be outta there. The cool thing about this is that it is about an outbreak that happens in one day and it takes footage from all different sources. There is Skype cameras, (in my case) there is police cameras, iPhone and many others. They weave all these media forces together to tell a pretty convincing story. If you didn’t know this was a film, there is some believablility to this.

MG: How worked in both film and TV, what do you enjoy most and what do you look for in a role?
JT: My forte is comedy and I consider myself a character actor. Any chance I get to make people laugh is what I love the most. It doesn’t hurt when certain actors, directors or locations come into play. This is the stuff that I look for when I am choosing a role.

MG: How was it getting to work with Bette Midler and Billy Crystal on “Parental Guidance”?
JT: I only got to see Bette during the table read. But working with Billy Crystal was really crazy. I started talking with him one day about hosting the Academy Awards and telling him that he has been the best of all-time. He then started doing all the bits. It was awesome. It was like a free show. At the time I was shooting, Eddie Murphy was slated to host the Academy Awards. I finished shooting and like a week later Eddie dropped out and Billy Crystal got invited back. I thought that was really cool and I was saying that I was responsible for this [laughs]. But he was really awesome and I consider him a comedy legend.

Alan Rinzler talks about working with Hunter S. Thompson

Alan Rinzler is known for working as consulting editor for the late Hunter S. Thompson on “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail”, “The Great Shark Hunt” and “The Curse of Lono”. Alan has also worked with such respected authors such as Clive Cussler and Robert Ludlum, as well with memoirs for Frank Capra and John Lennon. Media Mikes had a chance to pick Alan’s brain to tell his experience with working with the late Hunter S. Thompson.

Mike Gencarelli:  “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail” and “The Great Shark Hunt” are two of my favorite Hunter S. Thompson books.  How did you get involved with him?
Alan Rinzler: Back in 1965 or so, I published a book at the Macmillan Company by Danny Lyons called The Bike Riders which was a photo book about a group known as the Chicago Outlaws and I was very interested in reading another book about motorcycle gangs.  At that point I had never heard of Hunter Thompson but I got a copy of his first book Hell’s Angels and loved it. It wasn’t a big success at first, but eventually sold more copies over the years as Hunter became famous.  Then around 1969, I was the Vice President and Associate Editor of Rolling Stone and met Hunter. Hunter had decided to run for Sheriff in Aspen, Colorado, where he lived. He wrote a couple of pieces about his campaign and nearly won.  Then we published his classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in two parts. In 1970 we started a Rolling Stone book company called Straight Arrow Books, of which I was President and Editor-in-Chief. We decided to cover the run-up in the primary campaign and 1972 presidential election. We were  competing with Theodore White’s “Making of the President” series that had started with JFK in 1960. White had written books covering the presidential campaigns of 1960, 64 and 68 and we knew he would be working on one for 1972.  So we assigned Hunter to the job.  Of course, 1972 was a very interesting campaign.

MG: Tell us about your experience working with him?
AR:  Hunter hated editors and ignored deadlines.  During the ten years he’d struggled to get a foothold as a writer, the editors at various magazines he submitted ideas and articles to either rejected his copy or tried to homogenize the style to fit what they thought was their audience. We loved the way he wrote but when you’re covering a presidential election you’re covering breaking news and have to be timely. After spending what was for us a lot of money to send him out with the other major league reporters covering the primary and election, we didn’t hear from him for weeks at a time. We weren’t getting any pages for the book and deadline for completing all the articles and weaving them into a book was getting closer.  We had gotten printers waiting and our distribution network was geared up so we could get out there before Theodore White. By November, Hunter was avoiding me and when I tried to find him sent me threatening letters, like “If you come anywhere near me, Rinzler, I’ll break every bone in your body”.  So I had to take drastic measures.

He was hiding out at the Seal Rock motel at the end of Geary Street out by the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco. I loaded up my car with a big Nagra tape recorder, dozens of grapefruits, which I knew he loved, and a few cases of Wild Turkey. Hunter resisted at first when I pounded on his door but eventually relented. He wanted to do a good job and knew he needed help.  We worked out a system where I interviewed him, we’d have a team of people driving out with the pages they’d transcribed so we could take me out of the narrative, edit, re-record, retranscribe and then start all over on the next chapter. I had my dog Pushkin with me, a big brown shaggy poodle who went crazy every time he heard the seals barking and jumped all over our papers and photographs we had spread on the bed and all over the room, spilling glasses, chewing up the towels. Made a terrible mess. After sixteen days of no sleep we polished up the final manuscript, ready for the presses. But that’s basically how we wrote that book and it turned out to be pretty darn good.  Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail is still in print, still being read as a model of gonzo campaign coverage and revered by smart journalism students. Not just because it’s funny, smart and original.  It is.  But Hunter also produced comprehensive meticulous analysis and evaluation of the primary process and the presidential election itself.

MG:  Do you still have the recording from your sessions?
AR:  I do.  I have all of the recordings.  I taped everything because that’s how we worked.  And I taped all of our phone calls too.  Then when I came back to Berkley I got in the movie business for a while.  I knew Jack Nicholson and Jack was a huge admirer of Hunter’s.  So we all met together in Hollywood at Jack’s house, out by the pool…Nicholson wanted to film an idea Hunter had for story called “Guts Ball or The Great Shark Hunt”. The studio wanted to do it.  Jack wanted to do it.  But it never happened. At this point, Hunter was deteriorating in both in his life and in his writing. He got worse instead of better on the addiction front.  His wife left him. Friends and a series of very willing girlfriends, none of them could keep him even reasonably straight.

MG:  How does he compare with the many other famous authors you have worked with?
AR:  It was ultimately a sad story.  At first I was pissed off at him.  And disappointed that, in my opinion, he was wasting  his talents.  Then we did one more really good book together “The Curse of Lono”. I left Rolling Stone and was working as Director of Trade Publishing at Bantam Books, so I could get him a big advance, the best motivation for Hunter, who was usually broke. To make sure we got the book done, I moved into his home, the Owl Farm near Woody Creek Colorado. He was snorting buckets of cocaine and drinking an awful lot, but I managed to tape, transcribe, gather up dozens of random scraps and ideas that I eventually, after a few months, gathered up in a big suitcase and took back on the plane while he was passed out in bed. The Curse of Lono was a little incoherent in spots but really the last brilliant thing he wrote, in my opinion.

He could have written another dozen books if he’d cut back and controlled his bad habits.  It was amazing he lived to 67 but by then he hadn’t written a good book in more than 25 years. A few months before he died he phoned me in the middle of the night. “Rinzler…Simon and Schuster has given me a lot of money and all I have is a bunch of junk. I need you to come out here tomorrow morning and get to work. Like the old days.” I asked him to send me the manuscript and he was right, it was awful. But before I could make it out there he had killed himself. Ironically, that very same draft came out without any editing and was on the NY Times Best-Seller list for eight weeks with the title “Kingdom of Fear”. Hunter’s fans want to read anything he’s written and don’t seem to notice that the book was awful. He’d be ashamed to know this, I bet.

Most of the author I’ve worked with keep getting better: Toni Morrison, Tom Robbins, Clive Cussler. The only other writer I think of in conjunction with Hunter, though an entirely different personality, was Jerzy Kosinski, who also killed himself.   He wrote “The Painted Bird.” One of Jerzy’s books was made into film Being There, in 1979 starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine, who was a very good writer. I did two very far out books with Shirley, Out on a Limb and Dancing the Light.

It’s very hard to be a writer.  It takes discipline, craft, courage and intelligence. Good writers struggle to balance their work with their personal lives – relationships, kids, money. I admire their bravery and devotion and have worked how for 50 years helping and supporting many authors who’ve produced long-lasting work that’s made a difference in their readers’ lives.

Book Review “Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson”

Author(s): Will Bingley, Anthony Hope-Smith
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Abrams
Release Date: April 1, 2012

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

I have been fascinated with Hunter S. Thompson’s work for many years. He has such a unique perspective on the world and will not be able to be replaced by anyone. This book is really an amazing look into this life from the birth of Gonzo Journalism to “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” to his sad death. If you are a fan of HST, this is an much purchase.

By the way, did I mention it is actually an illustration biography. Thanks to the amazing illustrations of Anthony Hope-Smith, HST’s life to death is presented to you in this wonderful format. The book itself is presented in soft cover and its pages compliment the very crisp and sharp illustrations very well. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this biography but it was very intimate and enjoyable. I recommend this graphic illustration very highly.

This book is one of those books that you just have to revisit over and over. I have a feeling as well, I will be passing this book around to many of my friends to enjoy as well. Be sure to check out the beautiful and honest foreword from HST’s editor Alan Rinzler. Lastly, I commend Abrams for publishing this fantastic book and I would love to see future volumes like these as well. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Hunter S. Thompson “No sympathy for the Devil, keep that in mind.  Buy the ticket, take the ride”.

Interview with Lee Thompson Young

Lee Thompson Young is currently co-starring as Barry Frost on “Rizzoli and Isles”.  The show is beginning its second season July 11th.  Lee Took some time to chat with Movie Mikes about the season two and what we can expect from his character.

Mike Smith: What do you like most about playing Barry Frost on “Rizzoli and Isles”?
Lee Thompson Young: I really enjoy portraying his technical and computer knowledge.  It’s really fun to be sitting at a computer and breaking down video footage or researching terrorists’ criminal records.  It give me something fun to play and those scenes have the energy of a mystery being solved.  It’s almost like a Sherlock Holmes moment.  To me those things are the most fun about playing Detective Frost.

MS: What can fans expect from your character this season?  Anything jaw dropping?
LTY: I certainly hope there is some jaw dropping stuff.  We definitely learn more about my character this season.  My father comes to visit us in the office.  I won’t go into detail why but it’s all geared and woven into one of the cases we’re dealing with.  We learn a lot about his family and who he is…his growing up and his relationship with his family.  There’s definitely a lot more history about Detective Frost this season.

MS: What is the most challenging aspect for you working on the show?
LTY: The most challenging thing, and it’s similar on all television shows, is that we’re doing fifteen episodes and the challenge is to come in on episode ten with the same intensity and freshness and excitement that you had in episode one.  Keeping it alive and staying 100% involved in your character over six months.  On a feature you just have that one story and you can perfect each moment and it’s done.  But we do one story every week and a half so just keeping it fresh is a challenge.

MS: You’ve got two very strong actresses (Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander) leading the cast.  How is it working with them?
LTY: What I take away most is the skill that they have and the job they do.  If they’re women or men, it doesn’t really play that much into the experience.  Everyone in the cast is a professional.  Having Angie and Sasha there is like going to a master acting class every day.  They are both very skilled and when I watch them I try to take away things…I notice the choices that they make.  The only major difference in having two girls or two guys in the lead is that sometimes hair and make up takes a little longer (laughs).

MS: How do you prepare for a role?
LTY: I love doing research for my roles.  To me it’s one of the best parts of the job.  For this role I went to Boston and spent about a week with the homicide unit.  They gave me the rundown on how they work and how they live.  It was really eye opening and probably the most valuable investment I’ve made over the past two years.  It’s given me so much fuel to play this character.

MS: How was your experience working on the film “The Hills Have Eyes II?”
LTY: That was great.  That was great!  We shot it in Morocco, which was a mind blowing experience.  I loved Morocco…I was surprised at how much I loved it….because I thought it was just in the desert, no big deal.  But the rocks..the mountains, the sky at night…everything was very beautiful.  But it was a tough shoot.  A hundred degrees plus temperatures in the day time…running around all day in a full National Guard Army uniform.  A lot of long hours doing very intense stuff…running, screaming, getting shot…shooting people.  But because it was so intense I think it was a very strong bonding experience with the cast.  But we had a lot of laughs.  We worked hard and we played hard and we had a good time.

MS: Do you have a preference between television and film?
LTY: I think that there are pros and cons to each medium.  But what it ultimately boils down to me is the quality of the story that I’m going to be involved in, be it t.v. or film.  With TV the schedule sometimes pushes you to move a little faster and you might not get as much time as you’d like to get a moment right.  But you also have a lot of time to develop the character over a series of episodes.  On a movie you sometimes can’t reach the same level of depth but…you know the script five months in advance…you can study each moment and spend the time to get it just the way you want it.  When it’s done it’s done and you can put it to rest.  Both mediums have their benefits.

MS: Besides the new season what other projects do you have coming up?
LTY: We shoot the show for six months and a lot of the time stuff that comes up in the middle of the year I’m not available for.  I don’t have anything lined up right now but I’ll try and have something lined up by the end of the season.  I’ll get with my representation and try to see what’s going on and hopefully there will be some things that come out of that.

Interview with Alfred Rubin Thompson

Alfred Rubin Thompson started out his entertainment career as Hip-Hop artist “The Icon”. During this time an offer came his way which led his career into a new direction that has proved very successful for Alfred. Movie Mikes had a chance to catch up with Alfred to talk about his career and some of his upcoming projects.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us what made you want to start acting?
Alfred Rubin Thompson: I grew up in Hollis, Queens during the same time as Russell Simmons and Run DMC, who were very much into business. I had started out in music first. After a few years of being in the entertainment business, I was in church one Sunday and was asked to play the voice of God in a play. That same day I was asked by another woman to play the same role in her play which was being put on at the Macauley Theater. I kind of took that as my sign to move into the direction of acting. During the second play, I was approached to try out for a commercial. From there I got my first feature film on BET, “Winner Takes All” and it has just taken off since.

AL: Can you tell us about the film “Decisions”?
ART: “Decisions” was released this Spring in select theaters across the country. I play the character of Oakland Nate, who is a crooked music producer. We shot the movie last year and this is the last film to feature Corey Haim. “Decisions” is about four guys who are trying to figure out a way to get out of their normal everyday lives. During the characters search they get caught up in a bank robbery which leads to some other problems for them. The thought behind the movie is to encourage proper decision making in your life. Often time one decision will impact other upcoming decisions later on in life. I had a great time working on the film. I think audiences are really going to enjoy it.

AL: Can you tell us what it was like working with Corey Haim?
ART: Corey was just a good guy. He was very outgoing and giving. He worked very hard on every scene to make sure the director had what they needed. We all were very shocked and sad when he passed away. It would have been great to see him in more projects as he got older. His work as a child actor was phenomenal. Corey was a really great guy and we all miss him.

AL: Can you tell us what it was like working with Will Farrell on Steve Carrell’s last episode of “The Office”?
ART: Oh my goodness! That was one of the most fun and extreme episodes. It’s one of those episodes where even if I wasn’t in it I would still sit back and just laugh. Working with Will was just hilarious. He’s such a comedic genius and his timing is perfect. Will is great person at heart and if you need him for something he’s there. Working on “The Office” in general was just great! NBC welcomed me with open arms. I thank God for that opportunity. That episode is going to go down as one of the best in history for NBC.

AL: Has there been any talk of your character being on the show again?
ART: There might be a possibility of my character coming back to kind of stir up something’s with the company. We will see. There have been talks about it but right now NBC is really focusing on the transition between Will Farrell’s character and some others that they are going to be bringing in. I think once they get that area of the show set you will see my character more.

AL: From your work in music, acting and voice over. Do you have a preference for one over the other?
ART: I enjoy all the talented crafts of the arts. You get to bring something different for each one. Acting allows me to convey emotion through movement, dialogue and facial expressions. Voice over work allows me to use just my voice to act out what the character is saying or doing. Music allows me to expression myself emotionally and let people know what I am thinking about different issues. I really enjoy the art of entertainment as a whole.

AL: Can you tell us about one of your other upcoming projects “Hemmingway and Gellhorn”?
ART: That is a project being done by HBO, who doesn’t do anything small! (Laughs) The project stars Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen and is based on Earnest Hemmingway’s memoirs from between 1936-1946. Getting to work with such a great group of actors and actress is really a pleasure. Most of my scenes in the film are with Clive Owen, as I play the character of Skinner. Clive is a witty and clever guy and it was great! HBO really believes in their projects as well as you as an actor. We just completed shooting the other day and I think the project is slated for release sometime in 2012. It’s a very interesting story that I think people will enjoy.

AL: Do you have any other upcoming projects?
ART: I was shooting a project the other day for Nickelodeon, which I can’t say too much about but I do have another shoot with them next month as well. I am up for a few more films which I hope will keep me busy throughout the summer which is really great.