While the writing of Hunter S. Thompson lives on, apparently so does the chaos he detailed in his groundbreaking prose.
During the production of a biopic on the late, great gonzo journalist last fall, an art truck took down the power line feeding electricity to Kim Eisner's early twentieth-century cabin in Silverton, which had been redesigned into the Thompson's iconic Owl Farm in Woody Creek outside of Aspen. (Thompson died there in 2005; his widow is turning the property into a museum.)
The September 2018 accident caused $23,807 worth of damage, according to the lawsuit that Eisner filed on March 27 against Colorado-based production company Third Party in Denver District Court on March 27.
"We weren't too worried, because we thought insurance was going to cover it. Then the insurance gave us the runaround," says Colin Floom, the film's line producer and Third Party's owner. "We are still working with Kim, and will settle this out of court."
Massachusetts-based Arts & Entertainment Insurance Brokerage referred Third Party to Empire Fire & Marine Insurance, which issued the crew an insurance policy, but according to the lawsuit "the plaintiff has not heard directly from the insurer since December 11."
But Matt McDonough, owner of Arts & Entertainment, responds that he has "been in regular communication with the claims adjuster assigned, Ms. Eisner's attorney and members of the production and can provide copies. The lack of communication has been on Third Party LLC's part."
The highly anticipated film, tentatively titled Freak Power, tells the story of Thompson's doomed run for sheriff of Pitkin County in 1969. Thompson documented his run in "The Battle of Aspen" for Rolling Stone; it was reprinted in The Great Shark Hunt.
Freak Power was written and directed by Bobby Kennedy III, who was frequently in Aspen on ski trips with his family when he was growing up and occasionally ran into Thompson. Stephen Nemeth, who produced the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, starring Johnny Depp, was also helping on the film. Jay Bulger plays Thompson.
"Hunter was brilliant, and he didn't want to see corporate America and the rich take over Aspen. Aspen was just a small little hippie town, and they were getting pushed out," Floom explains. "This is a very timely movie with gentrification happening in all the major cities, and even people like me, who live in Cap Hill, getting pushed out by wealthy people."
Adds the Denver dweller: "I can relate a lot to what the Freaks are fighting against. They wanted to keep Aspen weird."
In addition to Silverton, the film was shot around Pagosa Springs and Durango, where Floom is also working on The Orphan Train and Lindsay Sparks is shooting The Great Divide.
The crew scoured thrift stores for memorabilia and era-appropriate attire for both the stars and the 100-odd extras. In addition to finding a phonograph from the era, Floom secured original posters and memorabilia from Thompson's run for sheriff.
"People loved it," Floom says. "The locals were super-supportive, and they came in as extras, and we just turned Silverton into 1970s Aspen."
The Colorado Economic Development Commission had approved a $300,000 rebate for the film in December 2016. Kennedy appeared at the meeting to pitch his project. "It's sort of this ridiculous small-town political story," said Kennedy, then 32, at the time. "It's got a lot of issues, and it's kind of a parable for American politics writ large right now. I think it's going to get people really pumped up about local politics — especially people from my generation, who are kind of cut out from that right now. I just really want to motivate a lot of young twenty- and thirty-year-olds to get back to voting and running for office. That's sort of the goal of this film. It's funny, it's kind of wild, but a lot of people really put their hearts into that election, and I don't want this movement in Colorado forgotten forever. I think we're right on the verge of losing it, so I think this is the perfect time to bring it back."
Eisner did not respond to requests for comment. Her lawsuit quotes an email from the cabin owner: "The people I have dealt with during the filming have been respectful and polite. After we have settled the finances, I will write a letter to the editor for publication in our local paper of my appreciation and that I am looking forward to the movie opening."
So is Floom. Post-production on the film is wrapping up, and until Freak Power premieres later this year, he can't divulge further details of the production, but notes that "there was a lot of craziness."
"We made a great film, Bobby had a great vision, and we pulled it off," Floom concludes. "Jay Bulger was awesome. I've never worked with an actor who has given such an intense performance. I felt like I was hanging out with Hunter S. Thompson — like when we'd wrap, we'd go up in the woods and shoot guns."
Update: This story was updated at 9 a.m. April 3 to correct the name of the insurance company named in the suit and include the response from broker Matt McDonough. Our apologies for the error.
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