Hunter Thompson’s FAX to Holly Sorensen of January, 2001 is still infamous in Hollywood. Every writer and author’s frustration with the haphazard, sluggish process of “developing” a film is distilled into this hilarious screed. “Development” entails getting a deal for a pitch or a novel, then waiting for months while the lawyers memorialize the deal into a contract, then finding a writer for the script, then making his deal, etc. In the case of Hunter and The Rum Diary, more than a year had passed since the Tiki Hut pitch meetings with Johnny Depp, and Hunter was sick of waiting. He wanted the script writer Michael Thomas to be hired and paid by The Shooting Gallery, the production company which Holly Sorensen represented – and this FAX was designed to shame them into coughing up the money – which they did.
Holly’s rebuttal to The FAX reveals the nature of classic “Gonzo” writing by Hunter; the facts are often either exaggerated or wrong in a way that serves the truth quite well. As Frank Mankiewicz observes in Breakfast with Hunter about Hunter’s book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972, “It was the least factual, and most accurate account of the campaign.”
Michael Thomas showed up in Woody Creek in June 2001 to meet with Hunter and talk about the script. I assume he must have been paid by then. Hunter and he got along famously, even though I feared for Thomas’ safety when he declared that the movie should be a “comedy.” The memory of the horrible scene recorded in Breakfast with Hunter when Alex Cox and Tod Davies came to see Hunter about their script of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas hung over this script meeting four years later. To my surprise, Hunter agreed whole-heartedly that the movie should be a comedy.
Ironically, a week after Michael Thomas met with Hunter, the Hollywood Reporter front page declared, “Shooting Gallery Running Low on Firepower” and noted that the company’s financial situation had “deteriorated substantially.” In short order, The Shooting Gallery went out of business, and development of The Rum Diary slowed to a creep.
Now, ten years later writer/director Bruce Robinson is releasing his take on The Rum Diary and damn if it’s not one hell of a HILARIOUS COMEDY.