Posted on Tuesday, May 4th, 2010 by Russ Fischer
In 2004, Vanity Fair published an article co-authored by Hunter S. Thompson and Mark Seal called Prisoner of Denver. The subject, in a broad sense, was Colorado’s legal system and the potential for injustice within it. Specifically, the article looked at the case of Lisl Auman, who was charged with murder and sentenced to life, despite the fact that the crime for which she was convicted took place while she was already in police custody.
Now the article is being adapted for the screen by the Motion Picture Corporation of America.
The appeal isn’t merely based on the horrifying and obvious injustice at the core of the story. There is also the fact that, after Auman began a correspondence with Thompson, he became an activist for her case as one of the last actions of his life. Though the conviction was successfully overturned and she was freed, that happened after Thompson committed suicide.
Then there’s the fact that, in the ’70s, Mark Seal began his career as a police reporter in the who was overtly influenced by Thompson. When the writer called Seal and asked for his help it was like a dream come true. His involvement with Thompson and Auman led to encounters with “skinheads, speed freaks and angry cops.”
THR says that a writer has not been hired, but that MPCA is looking to find someone who can render the story in the vein of Thompson’s classic style, “with a focus on Thompson and Seal acting as a couple of gonzo Woodward and Bernsteins.” As to who’ll play Thompson, we have no current indications. Keep in mind that this would be the author as a much older man than the incarnations seen in previous films. And while he was working in Auman’s behalf, Thompson had assistance from celebrity friends such as Johnny Depp, Jack Nicholson and Woody Harrelson, so there’s an outside chance for them to appear as themselves.
I wonder if making this as a sort of latter-day Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a huge mistake. This is a dramatic, frightening story. What is more important, when you really get down to it: the tale of misused power, or Thompson’s involvement? Would presenting it as a gonzo tale undermine the real story? That said, how awesome would be the fanciful image of an older, drunk Thompson brandishing a giant handgun on the steps of the Colorado superior courthouse? So awesome.
Here’s some of Thompson’s text from early in the original article:
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The case of Lisl Auman, who first wrote me from prison three years ago, is so rotten and wrong and shameful that I feel dirty just for knowing about it, and so should you. The Colorado Supreme Court is preparing to hand down its fateful decision on an appeal in the case this summer, which should scare the living shit out of your whole family if the judges decide to keep this young woman in a filthy state prison for the rest of her life, when each one of them has to know-in their hearts and their minds-that she is innocent. She was locked and handcuffed in the backseat of a Denver police car long before a cop was shot 10 times and killed in what the thugs in the Denver Police Department call a sudden “adrenaline dump”-which in real life is called another disastrous police panic and a frenzy of hysterical shooting and screaming in a residential neighborhood that left two people dead. At least 100 uniformed law-enforcement officers swarmed onto the scene that day from all over town, and they went crazy. Shit, of course some people got killed, like they always do when 100 armed goons with a license to kill any suspect who comes within 21 feet of the rifle fire of a Denver cop responding to a 911 call show up in a mood to shoot somebody.