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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