Patricia Arquette made her directorial debut with the film Gonzo Girl, presented yesterday at the Rome Film Festival: it is inspired by Hunter Thompson and the story of the girl who acted as his assistant; the two protagonists have the faces of Willem Dafoe and Camila Morrone.
What are we talking about when we talk about Gonzo Journalism? Here is the definition he gives Patricia Arquettethe beloved American actress making her directorial debut with the film Gonzo Girl, presented yesterday at the Rome Film Festival. “There’s something wild about gonzo journalism” explains, “something to do with stupidity, with something brilliant, and with being ruthless“. According to the current definition, “Gonzo journalism can be truthful without having to be rigidly objective. He prefers to pay more attention to style than precision and aims to describe personal experiences, sensations, moods rather than facts“. But, for everyone, Gonzo journalism has a name: Hunter Thompsonthe author of Fear and disgust in Las Vegas (which the film is based on Fear and loathing in Las Vegasin which the author has the face of Johnny Depp).
In Gonzo Girl, Thompson is not called by his real name, but Walker Reade, and is called into question as the father of gonzo journalism. And he has the haunted face of Willem Dafoe. The story of Gonzo Girl And based on the novel by Cheryl Dalla Pietra, which recounts his experience as Thompson’s assistant. In the film she becomes Aley (Camila Morrone), a girl who agrees to become Walker Reade’s assistant, suffering from writer’s block, to help him finish his new novel. “I’ve always been interested in Hunter Thompson” explains Patricia Arquette. “We didn’t want to make a caricature of him, but we wanted to be free, we wanted to go in depth, tell the story of a boy abandoned by his alcoholic mother. Otherwise we would have made a biopic, and everyone would have gone to check if things were correct. It’s all much more interesting that way than in a biopic“. “We wanted to talk about celebrity and beauty in the nineties, about beauty seen as a commodity” adds the director. “And also about writer’s block, about learning an art from someone else. This is a coming-of-age story of a young woman“.
Patricia Arquette: “I chose the visual language of the seventies”
Watching Gonzo Girl makes you come transported, immersed, in the world of Walker Reade, that is, Hunter Thompson, and, even though we are in 1992, everything smells of the Sixties and Seventies. Patricia Arquette’s directing style goes precisely in that direction. “With Bobby Bukowski, the director of photography, one of my best friends, we chatted about the 70s and 70s films that we love, like those of Cassavetes” says the director. “I wanted this 90s coming-of-age story to be mixed with the world of Walker Reade. When you enter his world, it’s that of the sixties and seventies. And when you enter a celebrity’s orbit they dominate everything, sound and all. I used close-ups closer to what the close-ups are now, wide-angle shots, a visual language from the seventies with people going in and out of the fire. Among the references to the Sixties there are also Monty Python“. In the film there are also few, but successful, special effects. “We wanted to include that aspect as well” says the director. “We didn’t have money for big special effects, but we used them for a series of shots, such as those of the flowering“. Gonzo Girl is Patricia Arquette’s first directorial. “Directing has always fascinated me, but I’ve always liked acting more” tells. “I wanted to give the actors space to explore the many aspects of the character, who maybe does a bad thing and then does something wise” explains the director. “We wanted to explore this survival mechanism“.
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Willem Dafoe: “Getting away from Hunter Thompson was a way to get closer to his spirit”
Hunter Thompson, at the cinema, is inextricably linked to the face of Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Walker Reade, his alter ego, has the face of Willem Dafoe, another acting actor. “What attracted me was his world, the relationships he had with these various women” the actor explains to us with his usual affability. “And an artist who is stuck, who has a certain celebrity who doesn’t know how he’s going to move forward. With Patricia we didn’t want to create a caricature. But it’s not a movie about Hunter Thompson. It’s the journey of this girl, Aley, played by Camila Morrone, the relationship between them. If we had done an imitation we would have been forced to give a Hunter Thompson report. Doing it like this allowed us to take that distance to create a particular character. Moving away from him was a way to get closer to his spirit“.
Camila Morrone: “A nervous energy and anxiety are fundamental for my character”
And it is she, the protagonist, Camila Morrone, who is the great surprise of the film. Beautiful and sweet, she is destined to become the next Hollywood star, a new Anne Hathaway or a new Liv Tyler. What was your preparation for stepping into the role? “I didn’t meet either Patricia or Willem except on the day of filming” tells. “When you make a film with this budget you shoot for a few days and are thrown into this experience. So I was thrown into this character, into a world where you either learn to fly or you die. We visited the sets, tried on the costumes and started shooting 4-5 days later. This helped us create a nervous energy, an anxiety that is fundamental to my character“. “It was important for me to be like the fly that sits there and observes, and learns what idea it comes up with. Trying to discover something about my profession through them“.
Willem Dafoe: “Language is action, it can transport you elsewhere”
Ma Gonzo Girl and also a film about the power of the word. It could only be this, given that we are talking about journalists, writers, books. “Language is a gift in a screenplay” comments Willem Dafoe. “Expresses ideas regarding his relationships. The words for me represented the root of the character. Language is important: in reality it is action, it can transport you elsewhere. You can get so much from words“.