Benicio del Toro: ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas nearly wrecked my career’

Benicio Del Toro’s drug addled role in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas almost ruined his career as producers assumed he was battling real-life demons.
The 51-year-old actor played trippy lawyer Oscar Zeta Acosta, aka Dr. Gonzo in the 1998 adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s famed semi-autobiographical novel about a journalistic assignment in Las Vegas gone awry.
To play the slobbish character he put on weight by eating sixteen doughnuts a day – and movie executives who met him to discuss projects assumed he was living badly.
“I gained weight stupidly in eight weeks,” he tells The Guardian newspaper. “I didn’t get a trainer. I did it macho style, stupid style. I gained the weight really quick and it took a while to take it off. So, during that time, in between work, I had meetings and people saw me and said: ‘Oh my God, this guy went off the rails.’
“They hadn’t seen the movie; they don’t know what I’m doing. I could be walking to a 7-Eleven (convenience store) and some producer could be there saying: ‘Was that Benicio Del Toro? I saw him last week – what happened to him?'”
He added that even after the film came out, producers still believed he had a drink and drug problem, as gossip had spread that his performance alongside Johnny Depp as the equally addled protagonist Raoul Duke, was a little too authentic.
“People in Hollywood can be as gullible as anywhere,” he explained. “Just because they’re in the world of make-believe, it doesn’t mean they don’t believe it. The fact is that, after I tried to get a couple of jobs, the feedback I got was that people didn’t want to see me because ‘We know he’s got a drink problem, and we know he’s got a drug problem’.
“And the only reason for that was because they had seen Fear and Loathing. Maybe it was a compliment,” he added.
After starring in Fear and Loathing, Benicio didn’t appear in another film for two years – but happily his return, in Steve Soderbergh’s 2000 drug war drama Traffic, won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.