Johnny Depp Reads an Infamous Scene from Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels

In 1966, Hunter S. Thomp­son launched his career with the pub­li­ca­tion of Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Ter­ri­ble Saga of the Out­law Motor­cy­cle Gangs. The book was the result of Thomp­son liv­ing with the bik­ers for a year. He drank with them, hung out with them and wit­nessed both their com­radery and their bru­tal­i­ty. “I was no longer sure whether I was doing research on the Hel­l’s Angels or being slow­ly absorbed by them,” he wrote. He was ulti­mate­ly seduced by their out­law mys­tique and par­tic­u­lar­ly by their pas­sion for motor­cy­cles.

In the video clip above, tak­en from the doc­u­men­tary Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thomp­son, John­ny Depp reads excerpts from the famed Edge Speech in Hell’s Angels about the joys and ter­rors of rid­ing a bike reck­less­ly at night.

There was no hel­mets on those nights, no speed lim­it, and no cool­ing it down on the curves. The momen­tary free­dom of the park was like the one unlucky drink that shoves a waver­ing alco­holic off the wag­on.

Thompson’s flir­ta­tion with the Hell’s Angels end­ed abrupt­ly when he called out a bik­er named Junkie George for engag­ing in domes­tic abuse. “Only a punk beats his wife,” he quipped. Junkie took umbrage and pro­ceed­ed to beat him sense­less.

The book, when it came out, sim­i­lar­ly didn’t impress the Angels. In the clip below, which aired on Cana­di­an TV, an Angel con­fronts a sur­pris­ing­ly qui­et and twitchy Thomp­son before a stu­dio audi­ence.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hunter S. Thomp­son Inter­views Kei­th Richards

John­ny Depp Reads Let­ters from Hunter S. Thomp­son

Hunter S. Thomp­son Gets Con­front­ed by The Hell’s Angels

Read 10 Free Arti­cles by Hunter S. Thomp­son That Span His Gonzo Jour­nal­ist Career (1965–2005)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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  • Dave says:

    HST is like the skin­ny kid who hangs out with the tough kids for a week and there­by enhances his pres­tige with the oth­er 99% of kids sim­ply because he went near the tough kids. Then he self-aggran­diz­ing­ly dis­torts what actu­al­ly hap­pened and is called a lit­er­ary genius for doing so. I respect the Hel­l’s Angels for at least being hon­est bar­bar­ians.

    The par­al­lel I’d draw to today’s world is per­haps the sports jour­nal­ist who has nev­er played the sport yet lurks around the lock­er room think­ing he’s one of the guys, until one day they play a prank and the jour­nal­ist retreats back to his cubi­cled com­forts. While report­ing from the lock­er room, he brings his nuggets of super­fi­cial under­stand­ing to the spec­tat­ing pub­lic, yet is baf­fled when called to inter­pret a lock­er room lapse of the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of deco­rum. The lurk­ing reporter’s delud­ed nar­ra­tive super­sedes the play­ers’ own because they are nei­ther lit­er­ary nor in con­trol of the jour­nal­is­tic appa­ra­tus that would deliv­er their nar­ra­tive to the pub­lic.

  • Ray says:

    Well writ­ten and inter­est­ing anal­o­gy !

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