Wayne Ewing is the man behind some of the best documentaries about the late Hunter S. Thompson, such as “Breakfaster with Hunter”, “When I Die” and his latest film, “Animals, Whores and Dialogue: Breakfast with Hunter, Vol.2”. Wayne took on maybe roles in his films such as Cinematographer, Director, Editor and Producer. They are very intimate and really feel like labors of love. There have been many documentaries about the late Hunter S. Thompson, but Wayne’s films get a chance to get inside of his head directly. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Wayne about his relationship with Hunter and his films.
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Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you originally met Hunter S. Thompson?
Wayne Ewing: In the early 1980’s I found myself living in Woody Creek, Colorado not far from Hunter Thompson, who had always been a hero of mine. I had just finished two films as an independent producer for the PBS series “Frontline” and was looking for a new subject for a film for them. The word was out that Hunter was working in San Francisco as the Night Manager of the Mitchell Brothers’ O’Farrell Theater which seemed a good hook for a film. The Executive Producer of Frontline, David Fanning, encouraged me to pursue the story, at my own expense of course, so I made contact with Hunter’s secretary Deborah Fuller and flew her and myself to San Francisco to meet with Hunter. That weekend at the O’Farrell, a place Hunter called the Carnegie Hall of public sex in America, was more than you can imagine (see my vodcast “The O’Farrell” @ www.HunterThompsonFilms.com/vodcast for the lurid details). However, by the time I returned, David Fanning had chickened out and I realized I would have to make my own film about Hunter – what ultimately became Breakfast with Hunter.
MG: Was he a fascinating person to be around, I never had the chance to meet him?
WE: Hunter was charismatic to be sure, and moreover truly a lot of fun to hang with. His Mother would recall how when he was just five or six years old, all the other young kids in the neighborhood would gather on their front porch and wait, sometimes for an hour or more, for Hunter to come out to play. An invitation to Owl Farm, whether to watch football and gamble or work on a column or book with Hunter was a gift from the literary gods. He ran the best salon and saloon in the West.
MG: Did it take a lot of convincing to get Hunter to do the documentary “Breakfast with Hunter”?
WE: “Breakfast with Hunter” evolved out of that weekend in San Francisco. The next year, 1985, I found financial backing to make a pilot for a television series we were going to call “Breakfast with Hunter” – a parody of morning TV talk shows with a title suggested by Jack Nicholson. We paid Hunter to travel to Key West for the filming. Once again, check out my vodcast for the details. It was quite a trip. But I never sold the pilot or the series and Hunter began asking me to record various political events in Aspen that he was involved in. When cheap digital technology became available in the mid-nineties, I began shooting in earnest, and released Breakfast with Hunter in 2003, and then three other Hunter films, including the latest – Animals, Whores & Dialogue – all of which are exclusively available at www.HunterThompsonFilms.com
MG: Why did you decided to make “Animals, Whores & Dialogue: Breakfast with Hunter, Vol. 2”?
WE: There was so much material left over after I edited Breakfast with Hunter and more that I shot after its release in 2003, that I thought I could make another documentary feature about Hunter concentrating more on his work as a writer and less on his flamboyant lifestyle. Imagine if someone had been able to record Mark Twain in the same way. The film is meant to be a documentary for the ages, and I’ve been gratified to receive quite a few library orders, along with fans who already have the earlier films, and new ones as well.
MG: Was it difficult for you making “When I Die”, I think it is amazing that you were able to share that experience with his fans?
WE: Emotionally, it was quite difficult for me, since I had lost my best friend. But, in the end, like all funerals but even more so in this case, the process of documenting the construction of the monument (which went on for months), the struggle to get the community to accept it, and the blast off itself, gave me quite a bit of closure.
MG: What are your feeling on the film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, are you a fan?
WE: I’m a fan of Johnny Depp’s performance in “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas”, but not of the film itself, and I think the same was true for Hunter. Ironically, after Hunter got Alex Cox fired as Director for his insistence on using animation that Hunter called “cartoons,” (see the famous scene in “Breakfast with Hunter” where Cox flees the kitchen at Owl Farm) the Producers of the film hired Terry Gilliam, who began his career as a cartoonist. Gilliam was in England, not the US, during the turbulent sixties and prides himself on having never taken drugs, so perhaps he was limited by his own lack of experience.
MG: Have you had a chance to see “The Rum Diary” yet?
WE: No, but I’m looking forward seeing “The Rum Diary”, hopefully sometime in 2011.
MG: Do you have any more plans to make future film about Hunter S. Thompson?
WE: Probably not a feature length documentary like the last four, but look for new, short scenes to be released in the future on our web site – www.HunterThompsonFilms.com – especially about “The Rum Diary”.