Leaving Las Vegas is a 1995 American drama film written and directed by Mike Figgis, and based on the semi-autobiographical 1990 novel of the same name by John O'Brien. Nicolas Cage stars as a suicidal alcoholic in Los Angeles who, having lost his family and been recently fired, has decided to move to Las Vegas and drink himself to death. He loads a supply of liquor and beer into his BMW and gets drunk as he drives from Los Angeles to Nevada. Once there, he develops a romantic relationship with a pretty, but hardened, prostitute (Elisabeth Shue). O'Brien died from suicide after signing away the film rights to the novel.
|Leaving Las Vegas|
|Directed by||Mike Figgis|
|Screenplay by||Mike Figgis|
|Based on||Leaving Las Vegas|
by John O'Brien
|Edited by||John Smith|
|Distributed by||MGM/UA Distribution Co.|
|Box office||$49.8 million|
Leaving Las Vegas was filmed in super 16 mm instead of 35 mm film; while 16 mm was common for art house films at the time, 35 mm is most commonly used for mainstream film. After limited release in the United States on October 27, 1995, Leaving Las Vegas was released nationwide on February 9, 1996, receiving strong praise from critics and audiences. Cage received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama and the Academy Award for Best Actor, while Shue was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama and the Academy Award for Best Actress. The film also received nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director.
Ben Sanderson is an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who has lost his job, family, and friends. With nothing left to live for, and a sizable severance check from his boss, he heads to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. One early morning, he drives drunkenly from his Los Angeles home down to the Las Vegas Strip; he nearly hits a woman, Sera, on the crosswalk. She chastises him and walks away.
Sera is a prostitute working for abusive Latvian pimp Yuri Butsov. Polish mobsters are after Yuri, so he ends his relationship with Sera in fear that the Poles may hurt her. On his second day in Las Vegas, Ben goes looking for Sera, introduces himself and offers her $500 to come to his room for an hour. Sera agrees, but Ben does not want sex. Instead, they talk and develop a rapport; Sera invites Ben to move into her apartment. Ben instructs Sera never to ask him to stop drinking. Sera asks Ben not to criticize her occupation, and he agrees.
At first, the pair are happy, but soon become frustrated with the other's behavior. Sera begs Ben to see a doctor, which makes him furious. While Sera is working, Ben goes to a casino and returns with another prostitute. Sera returns to find them in her bed and throws Ben out. Shortly afterward, Sera is approached by three college students at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino. She initially rejects their offer by stating that she only "dates" one at a time, but eventually acquiesces when she is offered an increased price. When she enters their hotel room, the students change the deal and demand anal sex, which she refuses. When she attempts to leave, they violently gang-rape her.
The next morning, Sera is spotted by her landlady returning home bruised and is evicted. Sera receives a call from Ben, who is on his deathbed. Sera visits Ben, and the two make love. He dies shortly thereafter. Later, Sera explains to her therapist that she accepted Ben for who he was and loved him.
- Nicolas Cage as Ben Sanderson
- Elisabeth Shue as Sera
- Julian Sands as Yuri Butsov
- Richard Lewis as Peter
- Steven Weber as Marc Nussbaum
- Emily Procter as Debbie
- Valeria Golino as Terri
- Thomas Kopache as Mr. Simpson
- Laurie Metcalf as Mrs. Van Houten
- French Stewart as Business Man #2
- R. Lee Ermey as Conventioneer
- Mariska Hargitay as Hooker at Bar
- Julian Lennon as Bartender #3 in Biker Bar
- Graham Beckel as L.A. Bartender
- Albert Henderson as Man at Strip Bar
- Carey Lowell as Bank Teller
- Vincent Ward as Businessman #1
- Lucinda Jenney as Weird Woman
- Ed Lauter as Mobster #3
- Mike Figgis as Mobster #1
- Danny Huston as Bartender #2
- Shawnee Smith as Biker Girl
- Bob Rafelson as Man at Mall
- Marc Coppola as Dealer
- Michael Goorjian as College Boy #1 (as Michael A. Goorjian)
- Jeremy Jordan as College Boy #2
- Xander Berkeley as Cynical Cabbie
- Lou Rawls as Concerned Cabbie
Mike Figgis based Leaving Las Vegas on a 1990 autobiographical novel by John O'Brien, who died of suicide in April 1994, shortly after finding out his novel was being used as the basis for a film. Despite basing most of his screenplay on O'Brien's novel, Figgis spoke of a personal attachment with the novel, stating "Anything I would do would be because I had a sympathetic feeling towards it. That's why I did Mr. Jones, because I think manic-depression is a fascinating, sad, and amazing phenomenon. It's not a coincidence that some of the greatest artists have been manic-depressives. That made it, to me, a fascinating subject that, alas, did not come out in the film."
Figgis encouraged the lead actors to experience their characters' ordeals first-hand by extensive research. He told Film Critic: "It was just a week and a half of rehearsal. A lot of conversations. A lot of communication in the year before we made the film. Reading the book. I encouraged them [Cage and Shue] to do their own research, which they wanted to do anyway, and then ultimately the three of us got together and just started talking...talking about anything, not necessarily about the film or the script, about anything that came up." Cage researched by binge drinking in Dublin for two weeks and had a friend videotape him so he could study his speech. He also visited hospitalized career alcoholics. He said "it was one of the most enjoyable pieces of research I've ever had to do for a part." Shue spent time interviewing several Las Vegas prostitutes.
The limited budget dictated the production and Figgis ended up filming in super 16mm and composing his own score. He said "We didn't have any money, and we weren't pretending to be something we weren't. We couldn't shut down The Strip to shoot". Cage recounted that he found the use of 16mm liberating as an actor stating in a 1995 interview with Roger Ebert:
"As an actor, having a 16-mm. camera in my face was liberating because it's much smaller, so you don't feel as intimidated by it. It catches those little nuances. Because as soon as that big camera's in your face, you tense up a little bit. Film acting is a learning experience about how to get over that, but I don't know that you ever really do."
Figgis had problems because permits were not issued for some street scenes. This caused him to film some scenes on the Las Vegas strip in one take to avoid the police, which Figgis said benefited production and the authenticity of the acting, remarking "I've always hated the convention of shooting on a street, and then having to stop the traffic, and then having to tell the actors, 'Well, there's meant to be traffic here, so you're going to have to shout.' And they're shouting, but it's quiet and they feel really stupid, because it's unnatural. You put them up against a couple of trucks, with it all happening around them, and their voices become great".
Leaving Las Vegas had a limited release on October 27, 1995. After praise from critics and four Academy Award nominations, the film was released nationwide February 9, 1996. United Artists company distributed the film in North America, RCV Film Distribution with Atalanta Filmes in Europe, and in Australia 21st Century Film Corporation distributed the film.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 91% based on 53 reviews, with an average rating of 7.66/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Oscar-awarded Nicolas Cage finds humanity in his character as it bleeds away in this no frills, exhilaratingly dark portrait of destruction." It also holds a score of 82 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 23 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun-Times and Rick Groen from The Globe and Mail gave the film high marks. Ebert wrote "They [the characters] are the drunk and the whore with a heart of gold. Cage and Shue make these clichés into unforgettable people". Ebert named the film "best of 1995" and included it with his "best of the decade" list (Leaving Las Vegas was #8). Leonard Klady from Variety wrote Leaving Las Vegas was "certainly among a scant handful of films that have taken an unflinching view of dependency".
The film was a success at the box office, particularly considering its budget, grossing $49.8 million.
Home media releasesEdit
Video cassettes and DVD of the film were distributed by MGM Home Entertainment. The video cassettes were distributed on November 12, 1996 in two languages, English and Russian, while the DVD was distributed on January 1, 1998 in English for USA and Canada. Australian and UK editions later were released. The DVD contains a supplemental "Hidden Page" menu feature. The film was also released on Blu-ray, HD DVD and LaserDisc.
A soundtrack album, consisting mainly of film score composed and performed by Mike Figgis, was released November 7, 1995. The soundtrack also included three jazz standards performed by Sting and excerpts of dialogue from the film. A version of "Lonely Teardrops" performed by Michael McDonald that features in the film is not included.
All tracks are written by Mike Figgis except as noted.
|1.||"Intro Dialogue" (dialogue)||Nicolas Cage as Ben|
Elisabeth Shue as Sera
|2.||"Angel Eyes"||Matt Dennis, Earl Brent||Sting||4:02|
|3.||"Are You Desirable?"||Mike Figgis||2:43|
|4.||"Ben & Bill" (dialogue)||Nicolas Cage as Ben||0:30|
|5.||"Leaving Las Vegas"||Mike Figgis||3:12|
|6.||"Sera's Dark Side"||Mike Figgis||1:26|
|9.||"On The Street" (dialogue)||Nicolas Cage as Ben|
Elisabeth Shue as Sera
|10.||"Bossa Vega"||Mike Figgis||3:14|
|11.||"Ben Pawns His Rolex/Sera Talks to Her Shrink" (dialogue)||Nicolas Cage as Ben|
Elisabeth Shue as Sera
|12.||"My One and Only Love"||Robert Mellin, Guy Wood||Sting||3:36|
|13.||"Sera Invites Ben to Stay" (dialogue)||Nicolas Cage as Ben|
Elisabeth Shue as Sera
|14.||"Come Rain or Come Shine"||Harold Arlen, Johnny Mercer||Don Henley||3:41|
|15.||"Ben and Sera – Theme" (dialogue)||Nicolas Cage as Ben|
Elisabeth Shue as Sera
|16.||"Ridiculous"||Phil Roy, Nicolas Cage||Nicolas Cage||1:03|
|17.||"Biker Bar"||Mike Figgis||3:44|
|18.||"Ben's Hell"||Mike Figgis||1:37|
|19.||"It's a Lonesome Old Town"||Harry Tobias, Charles Kisco||Sting||2:37|
|20.||"Blues For Ben"||Mike Figgis||1:56|
|21.||"Get Out"||Mike Figgis||1:49|
|23.||"Sera Talks to the Cab Driver" (dialogue)||Elisabeth Shue as Sera|
Lou Rawls as Concerned Cabbie
|24.||"She Really Loved Him"||Mike Figgis||1:17|
|25.||"I Won't Be Going South For a While"||Angelo Palladino||The Palladinos||4:27|
- "LEAVING LAS VEGAS: A Finding Aid to the Collection in the Library of Congress". (1995). Washington, DC: Library of Congress Manuscript Division. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
- "Box Office Information for Leaving Las Vegas". The Numbers. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
- Pirina, Garin (October 28, 2015). "Leaving Las Vegas and the Writer Who Didn't Live to See It". Esquire. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
- Roger Ebert. "Cage relishes operatic role in tragic 'Leaving Las Vegas'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
- Nashawaty, Chris (November 10, 1995). "Grieving 'Las Vegas' – EW.com". Entertainment Weekly.
- Scott, A. O. "FILM REVIEW;Lurching Through a Life Of Alcoholic Abandon". NY Times. Archived from the original on February 8, 2013. Retrieved January 16, 2007.
- Noll, Christopher. "Viva, "Las Vegas!" – Interviewing Director Mike Figgis". Film Critic. Archived from the original on September 6, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
- "Cage Did Serious Research For Alcoholic Role". WENN. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
- Boyar, Tracy. "It's Worth Watching for Leaving Las Vegas". The Free Lance Star. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
- Ryan Lampe. "'Leaving Las Vegas' reminds us performance counts". The Stanford Daily. Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
- "Leaving Las Vegas (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
- The score from "Leaving Las Vegas Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
- Roger Ebert (November 10, 1995). "Leaving Las Vegas". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
- Leonard Klady (September 18, 1995). "Leaving Las Vegas". Variety.com. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
- "DVD details for Leaving Las Vegas". IMDB.com. Retrieved January 8, 2006.
- Leaving Las Vegas (1995) VHS. ASIN 6304045824.
- Leaving Las Vegas (1995) DVD. ISBN 0792838068.
- "Leaving Las Vegas CD". CD Universe.com. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
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