‘Fear and Loathing in Aspen’ released in limited theaters
Feature film playing in few U.S. theaters, including Movieland in El Jebel
Film stills from “Fear and Loathing in Aspen.” (Courtesy Modeworld)
A new film about Hunter S. Thompson’s 1970 campaign for sheriff in Aspen was released in limited movie theaters in the U.S. on Friday, including nearby at the Roaring Fork Valley’s Movieland in El Jebel.
“Fear and Loathing in Aspen,” written and directed by Bobby Kennedy III, stars Jay Bulger as Thompson in a dramatized account of the local hippie-led reform movement and revolutionary “Freak Power” campaign.
The film has followed a winding five-year-long road to this quiet release from Shout! Factory.
Its production was funded by $300,000 in rebates granted by Colorado’s Economic Development Commission in 2016. At the time it had a $1.85 million budget, according to a Denver Post report. But Kennedy later told the Aspen Daily News that the non-government money had been promised by Sony and that his team walked away from that deal due to creative differences, proceeding instead with a shoestring $250,000 budget.
Credited producers for the film include Stephen Nemeth, who also produced the 1998 adaptation of Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”
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The new movie was filmed in Silverton in fall 2018 under the title “The Battle for Aspen” with Bulger in the lead, Laird MacIntosh as Sheriff Carroll Whitmire, Cheryl Hines as Aspen Mayor Eve Homeyer, Maxwell Loeb as Tom Benton and Amaryllis Fox as a fictionalized campaign manager. Locations in Silverton stood in for locales where Kennedy did not film like Aspen, Woody Creek and Thompson’s Owl Farm compound.
Retitled “Freak Power,” the film had been slated to premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin on March 19, 2020. When the festival was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the film was shelved.
A documentary about the campaign, by Aspen-based co-directors Daniel Joseph Watkins and Ajax Phillips based on their 2015 book, then took back the “Freak Power” name and was released independently in autumn 2020.
In January, Shout! announced it had acquired North American distribution rights to Kennedy’s film, renamed a third time as “Fear and Loathing in Aspen.”
Shout! announced the July 23 release date last month and put a trailer online, in which Bulger’s Thompson is seen rallying long-haired supporters in period costume and booming “Saddle up, freaks” and saying “My aim is to encourage citizen participation in government. The only power we have is to vote.”
Shout! also released a two-minute clip of the film last week, which depicts a dramatized version of one of the iconic election debates between Thompson and Whitmire.
This week, Shout! published online a list of 20 theaters where the film would open this weekend, which originally did not include Movieland or any Colorado theaters.
Kennedy and producers have declined or not responded to interview requests from The Aspen Times since the SXSW cancelation. No early screening of the film have been made available since March 2020, when a pre-pandemic version was shared digitally with this newspaper.
Along with overseeing the theatrical run, Shout! has rights for on-demand, streaming and broadcast releases of the film. No plans to that effect have been announced.