“Fear and Loathing in Aspen,” the new Hunter S. Thompson movie, almost didn’t get released

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Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson is a character of his own making.

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The late author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (among many other books) has been portrayed by Bill Murray, Johnny Depp and Lee Cummings on screen, where the actors have struck compelling but cartoonish figures obsessed with drugs and guns as much as literary pursuits.

Thompson’s life inspired and often encouraged that. But when he died by suicide at the age of 67 on Feb. 20, 2005, his persona seemed reduced to a handful of tropes. Crumpled hat, sunglasses and omnipresent cigarette holder. Unpredictable, violent personality. Woody Creek’s unofficial mayor and gadfly, who babbled in unending streams, often indecipherably.

Those stereotypes can’t possibly provide full pictures of Thompson’s life, said Bobby Kennedy III, who first met Thompson as a child when visiting Thompson’s 42-acre Owl Farm compound outside Aspen with his father, political scion Robert Kennedy Jr. (son of Robert F. Kennedy).

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“He was the first person I ever fired a gun with,” the younger Kennedy said, adding that Thompson and his father were longtime friends.

Kennedy is hoping his new film, “Fear and Loathing in Aspen,” adds more real-life depth to Thompson’s persona and politics, which feel prescient in Thompson’s calls to demilitarize police, eradicate America’s racial and class disparities, and clean up the environment.

Jay Bulger in character as Hunter S. Thompson in “Fear and Loathing in Aspen,” which was filmed in Silverton. It was released on July 23 in theaters and digitally. (Provided by Shout! Factory)

“We’re in a historical echo right now,” Kennedy said during a recent Zoom interview. “If (Thompson) had won his run for sheriff of Pitkin County, maybe something would have changed, or we would have taken up some of his ideas. Cops making war on citizens and journalists is not a new thing in America.”

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