During the production of Gonzo Girl, the feature directorial debut of Patricia Arquette, Willem Dafoe had the unique opportunity to wear Hunter S. Thompson’s actual robe on set. Dafoe shared an intriguing detail about the robe – there was a shotgun shell in one of the pockets. This nugget of information adds an extra layer of authenticity to the film, which is based on the experiences of Thompson’s former assistant.
Set in the 90s, Gonzo Girl is inspired by the semi-autobiographical book of the same name by Cheryl Della Pietra. The story follows the journey of Alley Russo (played by Camila Morrone), a budding writer who is hired to assist the Thompson-esque character, Walker Reade. This “assisting” role involves indulging in copious amounts of drugs with Walker while coaxing him to produce pages for his latest book, often finding herself writing them herself.
Arquette, who portrays Claudia, Walker’s long-time manager, revealed that she was initially approached for an acting role in the film. However, she felt compelled to take on the challenge of directing Gonzo Girl due to its profound themes. The film touches upon addiction, codependence, the subconscious mind, unhealed individuals, and coming-of-age. The juxtaposition of the 90s setting with Walker’s 60s world, as well as the exploration of the artist’s struggle to break free from the restraints of their own work, further intrigued Arquette.
Willem Dafoe’s Interest in the Project
Dafoe, who plays Walker, was drawn to the film because of its examination of an aging artist and a young woman just beginning her creative journey. He found the dynamic between the two characters fascinating and the attraction between them intriguing. Without passing judgment on the state of Walker’s creativity, Dafoe delves into the complexities of an older artist’s relationship with a younger, aspiring artist.
Camila Morrone’s Relatable Experiences
Morrone’s character, Alley, starts her assistant job with a sense of enthusiasm and naivety. However, her immersion in Walker’s world leads her to make some soul-searching decisions. Morrone explains that as a young person, it is easy to blur boundaries and struggle to find one’s own identity and limitations. She relates to Alley’s desire to please, excel at her job, and receive validation. Morrone’s performance explores these universal struggles that transcend age and profession.
The ensemble of talented actors, the thought-provoking themes, and the unique blending of different time periods create an engaging and introspective cinematic experience in Gonzo Girl. Whether it’s the allure of Hunter S. Thompson’s legacy, the examination of addiction and codependence, or the exploration of artistic expression and personal growth, this film promises to captivate audiences and leave them pondering the complexities of the human experience.