'Final 24': When Hunter S Thompson shot himself, Johnny Depp funded $3M funeral to shoot his ashes into the sky

In 1998, Johnny Depp starred in a film by director Terry Gilliam and played Thompson. Thompson and Depp's friendship is a tale of lasting love and mutual admiration


                            'Final 24': When Hunter S Thompson shot himself, Johnny Depp funded $3M funeral to shoot his ashes into the sky
Hunter S Thompson and Johnny Depp (Getty Images)

The founder of the gonzo journalism movement, Hunter S Thompson is a journalist and author who rose to fame with the 1967 book 'Hell's Angels' after riding with the Hells Angels motorcycle gang for a year to write a first-hand account of their experiences.

However, his best-known work is 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' (1971), where he grapples with the implications of what he considered the failure of the 1960s counterculture movement. The book was first adapted loosely in 'Where the Buffalo Roam' starring Bill Murray as Thompson in 1980. Later, in 1998, Johnny Depp starred in a film by director Terry Gilliam and played Thompson. Thompson and Depp's friendship is a tale of lasting love and mutual admiration. 

Politically minded, Thompson was quite popular for his dislike of Richard Nixon and said that he was a symbol of "that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character". After he covered Nixon's 1972 reelection campaign, he penned it down in book form as 'Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72'.

Johnny Depp and Hunter S Thompson (Getty Images)

The consequences of fame left him burdened from the mid-1970s and he hated the fact that he was too easily recognized in public. His addiction to alcohol and illegal narcotics and his love of firearms was no secret. He often remarked: "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." At the age of 67, he committed suicide after a string of health issues.

At 5.42 pm on February 20, 2005, he fired a bullet to his head at Owl Farm, his "fortified compound" in Woody Creek, Colorado. That weekend, his son Juan, daughter-in-law Jennifer, and grandson were visiting and he was on the phone with his wife Anita. According to reports in the Aspen Daily News, Thompson asked her for help with writing a column and then set the receiver on the counter and blew himself off.

Reports say that Anita mistook the bullet shot for his typewriter. Meanwhile, Will and Jennifer thought it was just the sound of a book that fell down. Juan Thompson found his father's body, called the sheriff's office half an hour later, then walked outside and fired three shotgun blasts into the air to "mark the passing of his father". According to police reports, a piece of paper was found in Thompson's typewriter dated "Feb. 22 '05" and the word, "counselor".

Hunter S Thompson and actor Johnny Depp (Getty Images)

News of his depression was soon reported and his close friends said he found February a "gloomy" month. Moreover, he wasn't happy with chronic medical problems in old age and would often mutter, "This kid is getting old." A letter said to be a suicide note to his wife was published in Rolling Stone. Titled "Football Season Is Over," it read: "No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always b***hy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your age. Relax — This won't hurt."

Organized by Depp, did you know the funeral cost $3 million? On August 20, 2005, Thompson's ashes were fired from a cannon and at his funeral, red, white, blue, and green fireworks flew across to the melodious tunes of Norman Greenbaum's 'Spirit in the Sky' and Bob Dylan's 'Mr Tambourine Man'. Depp told the Associated Press, "All I'm doing is trying to make sure his last wish comes true. I just want to send my pal out the way he wants to go out."

Several noted celebrities were a part of it, including US Senators John Kerry and George McGovern, actors Jack Nicholson, John Cusack, Bill Murray, Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn and Josh Hartnett; musicians Lyle Lovett, John Oates and David Amram, and artist and long-time friend Ralph Steadman.

‘Final 24’ airs every Wednesday at 9 pm ET on AXS TV. More weekly episodes will feature the lives of several other iconic celebrities.

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