Top 10 Movie Druggies
#10 – Bob Hughes, Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Based on the writing of James Fogul (who served a 22 year prison sentence for drug-offences) Matt Dillon gives a career best performance in this early offering from Gus Van Sant. As junkie thief Bob, Dillion reportedly went down the method route, losing weight and shooting water into his veins to prepare for the role, and throughout there’s a real sense that he knew he was onto something special. Bob is both charismatic and paranoid, his fear of ‘the hat on the bed’ a comic tick that proves all too prescient. He also gets to rob pharmacies, hang out with William S. Burroughs and spout no end of junkie wisdom. Like the man says: ‘Most people don’t know how they’re gonna feel from one moment to the next. But a dope-fiend has a pretty good idea. All you gotta do is look at the labels on the little bottles.’
#9 – Grady Tripp, Wonder Boys (1999)
A million miles from Gorden Gekko’s slick inside trader is Michael Douglas’ gloriously shambolic turn in Wonder Boys. Here he plays author and academic Grady Tripp, who’s so stoned on weed he’s reduced to watching his life unravel as though from a great distance. Over the course of one fateful weekend he’s forced to confront the realities of his failing marriage, his affair with the dean’s wife, and the precarious mental state of his most promising student. All after ingesting large quantities of high-grade cannabis. There’s also the small question of his new novel, a behemoth that seems to have taken on a life of its own. Douglas has never been better as the wry, disorientated Tripp, a man who’s coasting through his life like, well, someone stoned out of their gourd.
#8 – Floyd, True Romance (1993)
True Romance is a movie full of so many stand-out performances it’s amazing that Brad Pitt’s perpetual slacker Floyd makes any impression at all. He does, though, perhaps because he reminds us of that stoner flat-mate we’ve all had at one time or another. Or, for that matter, of the stoner flat-mate that we ourselves used to be. Word has it that Brad was reluctant to take on the role; maybe he didn’t want to take his home-life to work with him (just a theory, mind). As it is he’s great, cradling the ‘Dragon’ bong that Tarantino himself had hand crafted and now has pride of place on his mantlepiece. Probably.
#7 – Lenny Brown, The Boost (1988)
As if James Woods needs to do a shed-load of coke- he’s edgy enough already. But in this ‘yuppies decend into drug hell’ drama from 1988 that’s exactly what he does: enough marching powder to fund a CIA approved dictatorship. Woods is at his maniaical best as the businessman left thousands in the hole when the federal goverment changes the tax-laws. Given a much needed ‘boost’ by his friend Joel (where can I get friends this generous?), Woods is soon on a downward spiral of addiction and hugely energetic acting as he discovers that, apparently, doing drugs can be bad for your health. He also discovered that co-starring with Sean Young can be bad for your health, too, and filed a restraining order against the notoriously barmy actress once filming was completed.
#6 – Lance, Apocalypse Now (1979)
Who wasn’t off their face during the making of Apocalypse Now? Most of the unmitigated chaos is captured in the excellent documentary Hearts of Darkness, and Coppala himself perhaps summed it up best when he said: ‘We had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane.’ But whose insanity really made it up onto the screen? Because as much a Dennis Hopper is his usual, demented self (reportedly getting through three to four bottles of hard liquor a day, plus a gram of coke every hour or so) it’s Sam Bottoms as the spaced-out surfer Lance who really lingers in the memory. When he drops acid just in time to take in the night-time attack on the Do Long bridge, situated in the aptly named ‘ass end of the world,’ it’s the ultimate bad trip. Lance, however, takes it in his stride, and with a look in his eye that any acid-freak worth his salt will tell you is impossible to fake.
#5 – Raoul Duke, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
The stash in the back of Roul’s car says it all: ‘We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.’ Pretty impressive by anyone’s standards, but, hey, why stop there? Why not take the contents of a human adrenal gland and watch your lawyer turn into a goat sporting twelve hairy tits? Johnny Depp spent weeks hanging out with Hunter S. Thompson ‘researching’ his role as the famously demented journo. Then, after Hunter’s death in 2005, he fired his ashes out of a great big cannon. You know why? It was outta respect.
#4 – Danny, Withnail & I (1987)
Creator of the Camberwell Carrot, Danny and his enormous spliff have officially entered the realms of cult super-stardom (if that’s not an oxymoron). By all accounts, Ralph Brown was also present the night Withnail director Bruce Robinson tired to get Richard E. Grant into character by plying him with drink, only to discover that poor Richard is allergic to alcohol. Or that, basically, it makes him throw his guts up. Which hardly makes you allergic, does it? It makes you a bit of a part-timer. As for Ralph, he was so successful in the role he was asked to reprise it (more or less) in Wayne’s World 2. The results were somewhat less memorable.
#3 – Bob Arctor, A Scanner Darkly (2006)
While Keanu may appear stoned in every single role he’s ever essayed, there are surprisingly few occasions in which he’s played an out-and-out druggie. In fact, only two spring to mind: his turn as the high school slacker in River’s Edge, all the way back in 1986, and here, in Richard Linklater’s faithful adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s bleakly autobiographical novel. Keaun is Bob Arctor, a cop so far undercover he’s ordered to investigate himself. He’s also addicted to something called Substance D and surrounded by a veritable gallery of Hollywood eccentrics, from hemp enthusiast Woody Harrelson to reformed klepto Winona Ryder. The formerly addled Robert Downey Jr. also puts in an appearence, and it’s nice that, for once, Keanu’s drugged-out demeanour is actually relevant to the film he’s starring in.
#2 – Lester Burnham, American Beauty (1999)
There’s something truely magical about watching depressed shlub Lester regain his lust for life by taking up weed and chasing his teenage daughter’s best friend. Equally satisfying is the memo to his boss: ‘My job consists of basically masking my contempt for the assholes in charge, and, at least once a day, retiring to the men’s room so I can jerk off, while fantasizing about a life that doesn’t so closely resemble hell.’ Perhaps the most uplifting moment, however, is Lester puffing on a blunt whilst driving down the highway, singing along to American Woman by The Guess Who (not the Lenny Kravitz cover version). Rarely have the joys of marijuana been so gleefully celebrated, and in a film that went on to win no less than Five Academy Awards.
#1 – Mark Renton, Trainspotting (1996)
While it can be argued that, in actual fact, it’s Spud who’s the bigger druggie (Renton, after all, gets clean), it’s the sheer variety of illicit substances consumed by Trainspotting‘s central character that gives him the edge. The list is, to say the least, excessive: smack, speed, ecstasy, booze, fags, hash, opium rectal suppositories and methodone. Choose life, indeed. Ewan McGregor got himself down to 10 stone for his breakthrough role, claiming he lost weight by grilling his food instead of frying it and by drinking gin instead of beer. He then went to Hollywood and gave up booze altogether. But at least he didn’t go to rehab. Instead he became a parachuting priest in Angels and Demons, which has to be seen to be believed, and made this particular viewer think his drink had been spiked during the opening credits.