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Just Said No

Terry Gilliam responds to ABC’s stand on “Fear and Loathing” (Plus: TV critic Ken Tucker reviews the last “Seinfeld” episode — coming later today)

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ABC has offered a small concession to Terry Gilliam after refusing to air commercials for his film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (opening May 22). The network originally said it would not advertise a movie that it felt espoused a pro-drug philosophy. Then an ABC exec wrote a letter to inform Gilliam that the network would consider running the commercials after 9 p.m. — but only after viewing the film to make sure it’s not reflective of Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 book, which recounts his drug-crazed visit to Sin City. Describing the situation to EW Online, Gilliam asks, “Why would we want to make a film that’s not reflective of the book we based it on?”

Gilliam thinks this is a case of the conservative Disney-owned network missing the point of “Fear and Loathing.” “It’s not a pro-drug book, nor is it a pro-drug movie,” says the 57-year-old director. Although the lead character, Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp), and his lawyer cohort Dr. Gonzo (Benicio Del Toro) spend the entire film on a drug binge, their erratic and sociopathic behavior (such as brandishing guns, fouling hotel rooms and terrorizing bellhops and waitresses) hardly makes them attractive role models. “Nobody who comes out of this film is going to rush out and take drugs,” he says. “Except for maybe valium to calm themselves down.”

As Gilliam waits to see if ABC changes its mind on its ban, he is struck by a programming irony: “What’s happening now is that they won’t advertise our movie during ‘Politically Incorrect.'”

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