Leaving Las Vegas


1h 52m 1995
Leaving Las Vegas

Brief Synopsis

An avowed alcoholic, Ben drank away his family, friends and, finally, his job. With deliberate resolve, he burns the remnants of his life and heads for Las Vegas to end it all in one final binge. On the strip, Ben picks up a street-smart hooker named Sera in what might have been another excess in his self-destructive jag. Instead their chance meeting becomes a respite on the road to oblivion as something connects between these two disenfranchised souls.

Film Details

Also Known As
Farväl Las Vegas
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Adaptation
Drama
Medical
Romance
Release Date
1995
Distribution Company
United Artists Films
Location
Laughlin, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m

Synopsis

An avowed alcoholic, Ben drank away his family, friends and, finally, his job. With deliberate resolve, he burns the remnants of his life and heads for Las Vegas to end it all in one final binge. On the strip, Ben picks up a street-smart hooker named Sera in what might have been another excess in his self-destructive jag. Instead their chance meeting becomes a respite on the road to oblivion as something connects between these two disenfranchised souls.

Crew

Amy H Abrams

On-Set Dresser

Bruce Barbour

Stunt Player

T Kevin Beard

Set Production Assistant

Katy Bihr

Makeup Artist

Paul Birk

Best Boy

Michael R Blaich

Other

Bonnie Blake

Assistant

Amanda Blue

Assistant

Amanda Blue

Other

Jennifer A Blum

Driver

Rick Boyle

Best Boy Grip

Vickie Brinkkord

Set Costumer

Valerie Burnley

Craft Service

James A Capp

Assistant Production Coordinator

Lila Cazes

Producer

Tony Coe

Music

Colin Coull

Color Timer

Richard Davenport

Other

James Elton Davis

Electrician

Jean Davis

Costumes

Beatrice Dealba

Hair Stylist

Ed Deane

Music

Andie Derrick

Foley Artist

Christian E Dirkes

Dolly Grip

Henry Dobson

Dubbing Mixer

Steve Earle

Driver

Flint Ellsworth

Electrician

Peter Evangelatos

Craft Service

Leesa Evans

Costume Supervisor

Simone Farber

Assistant Director

Don Feeney

Driver

Florence Fellman

Set Decorator

James Feltham

Assistant Sound Editor

Eddie Fickett

Set Production Assistant

Mike Figgis

Music

Mike Figgis

Screenplay

Mike Figgis

Original Score

Marc S. Fischer

Line Producer

Marc S. Fischer

Unit Production Manager

Carrie Frazier

Casting

Florencio Gelabert

Art Department

Jinx Godfrey

Editor

Laura Goldsmith

Costume Designer

Scott Goudreau

Driver

Robin Green

Production Supervisor

Jason Hadley

Swing Gang

David Haldiman

Location Manager

Dick Hancock

Stunt Player

Suzanne Hanover

Photography

Linda Hardy

Makeup Artist

Linda Hardy

Hair Stylist

William Harrison

Special Effects Coordinator

Dave Hartley

Music

Bernadette Echo Hawk

Other

Robert Hawk

Carpenter

Todd Heater

Electrician

Nigel Heath

Sound Editor

Rod Howick

Foley Editor

Janee Hull-page

Script Supervisor

Steve Irwin

Video Playback

Toby Irwin

Gaffer

Brain Kahn

Driver

Waldemar Kalinowski

Production Designer

Barry M Kingston

Art Director

Paul Knight

Assistant Editor

Mathew Knights

Dialogue Editor

Marco Kyris

Stand-In

Martee Lacomette

Stand-In

Chris Laurence

Music

Jeff Levine

Assistant

Mark Anthony Little

Set Production Assistant

Kathy L Macmillan

Driver

Harvey K Malkin

Production Accountant

Ghislain Mandon

Swing Gang

Albert Marangoni

Other

Gary Marcus

Assistant Director

Carl Mastromarino

Assistant Production Accountant

Sean Mckelvey

Electrician

John Joseph Minardi

Grip

Adam Moos

Other

Maggie Nicols

Music

John O'brien

Source Material (From Novel)

Anmari Ollsson

Art Department

Dana Padgett

Post-Production Coordinator

Charles G Page

Foreman

Marie Pederson

Camera Operator

Ty Pennington

Set Production Assistant

Steve Pfauter

Swing Gang

Chuck Phillips

Construction Coordinator

Seth Phillips

Driver

Seth Phillips

Production Assistant

Rodrigo Pimental

Art Department

Stephen G Pizzo

Assistant Camera Operator

Mathew Pope

Other

Declan Quinn

Director Of Photography

Declan Quinn

Dp/Cinematographer

Derek Raser

Transportation Coordinator

Stuart Regen

Executive Producer

Shannon E Reilly

Office Assistant

Gustavo Ramos Rivera

Art Department

Stacey Rosen

Casting Associate

Todd Rowland

Driver

Michael Saxton

Post-Production Supervisor

James Scott

Other

Danny Sheehan

Sound Dubbing

Paige Simpson

Executive Producer

Julian Slater

Editor

John Smith

Editor

Jeff Smolek

Stunt Player

Kevin Smyth

Key Grip

L M Soble

Assistant

Annie Stewart

Producer

Sting

Song Performer

Jason Swanscott

Foley Artist

Zeev Tankus

Property Master

Geoffrey Teagardin

Set Production Assistant

J T Thayer

Transportation Captain

Earl V Thielen

Driver

Tracy Thielen

Driver

Ian Thomas

Music

T J Tollefson

Grip

Diane Towery

Stunt Player

Russell Towery

Stunt Coordinator

Romany Turner

Other

Romany Turner

Set Production Assistant

Craig Van Gundy

Assistant Location Manager

Ray Warleigh

Music

Pawel Wdowczak

Sound Mixer

Vivienne Westwood

Wardrobe

Annette Williams

Assistant Editor

Mark Willis

Driver

Rebecca Young

Art Department Coordinator

Anne Mari Ziecker

Assistant Property Master

Film Details

Also Known As
Farväl Las Vegas
MPAA Rating
R
Genre
Adaptation
Drama
Medical
Romance
Release Date
1995
Distribution Company
United Artists Films
Location
Laughlin, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 52m

Award Wins

Best Actor

1995
Nicolas Cage

Best Actor

1995
Nicolas Cage

Award Nominations

Best Actress

1995
Elisabeth Shue

Best Adapted Screenplay

1995

Best Director

1995
Mike Figgis

Best Actress

1995
Elisabeth Shue

Best Director Motion Pictur

1995
Mike Figgis

Best Motion Picture

1995

Articles

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)


It's amazing that a film like Leaving Las Vegas (1995) was made at all. The 1990 novel by John O'Brien was a semi-autobiographical project by an author who struggled with alcoholism. In a period of sobriety, he poured his own struggles and depression into the fictional story of Hollywood screenwriter who chooses to drink himself to death. The largely unknown novel was out-of-print when art gallery owner and aspiring producer Stuart Regen stumbled across it in a used bookstore. He passed the book to his friend, director Mike Figgis, who thought that the subject matter was so uncommercial that he could try out ideas and techniques without studio interference. "I made that movie saying to myself I'm never gonna win an Academy Award," recalled actor Nicolas Cage in 2018. "I said I don't care, let's just make the movie. Let's be down and dirty."

Figgis was at a low point in his career when he received the book from Regen. He immediately latched on to it, writing a first draft in under week, and committed to making the film on a small budget. Nicolas Cage, not yet a major star, had made his mark as a talented actor who delivered quirky, unexpected performances in such films as Raising Arizona (1987), Moonstruck (1987), and Wild at Heart (1990), when he was cast in the starring role of Ben. Figgis had auditioned Elisabeth Shue for an earlier film and immediately thought of her for the role of Sera, the Las Vegas prostitute who takes care of Ben. All of them worked for little money to get it made.

Figgis encouraged Cage and Shue to conduct their own research for the roles. Cage spoke with alcoholics and with people who ran programs for problem drinkers, and he hired poet Tony Dingman to be his "drinking coach." "He would say the most poetic, drunken things like, 'You do not kick the bar, you lean into the bar because it's not vino veritas, it's in vino veritas.' He would just spout these things out and of course I'd put them all in the movie." Cage also explored the physiological aspects of alcoholism. "The stomach shrinks and contracts like a fist, and the alcohol's like this injection that goes into the body and relaxes the stomach," he explained to Roger Ebert. "So the performance really largely came from the stomach for me."

Shue talked with Las Vegas prostitutes on the strip. "What the women in Vegas explained to me is that you can turn somebody on and feel nothing for them, nothing. That's how you have power over them." Shue channeled her research into improvised scenes with Sera talking to an unseen, unnamed therapist. Figgis filmed the conversations, which he conducted with Shue in character, on the first day of production without knowing if they would even be in the film. "We spent all day long, just sitting there, talking," Shue recalled. "I was so thankful those scenes were in there because it really gives her a voice which she wouldn't have had otherwise."

The film was made independently for $4 million on a 28-day schedule, a small production by Hollywood standards, and shot on location in Las Vegas with a small crew. Figgis shot on super 16mm film, a format widely used by independent filmmakers, rather than 35mm, because "It was lighter, it was cheaper, it was grittier, and it was a little more impressionistic." In the pre-digital days, the camera gave the filmmaker more mobility and flexibility. "There was this kind of a guerrilla nature about it," Shue explained. "There was an intensity in the pace that really helped the intensity of the feelings." It also enabled the crew to work quickly, to shoot scenes on the Vegas strip in the midst of crowds and traffic, sometimes without permits.

A musician and composer in his own right, director Figgis wrote the film's score and was part of the jazz ensemble that performed it. Sting, who costarred in Figgis' debut feature Stormy Monday (1988), volunteered his services to sing three songs on the soundtrack. Figgis also cast friends and fellow filmmakers in bit parts—Valeria Golino as woman in a bar, Danny Huston and Julian Lennon as bartenders, New Zealand director Vincent Ward as a businessman—and stepped out from behind the camera to play an Eastern European mobster alongside the film's production designer, Waldemar Kalinowski. Mariska Hargitay has a small but important role as a hooker and, in the final minutes of the film, Lou Rawls appears as a sympathetic cab driver.  

In a tragic real-life twist, John O'Brien killed himself soon after selling the film rights. He had been in and out of rehab for years and was drinking again when he sold the book. The film was still in preproduction when he shot himself. His father called the novel his "suicide note." But while he never lived to see the film go into production, his family was invited to the set. They were moved by the commitment of the production to honor the vision of novel. And the film's success brought literary recognition to O'Brien, something he never achieved in life. The novel was brought back into print and his unpublished novels were published posthumously.

Released to glowing reviews, Leaving Las Vegas was a hit with audiences and critics alike. Roger Ebert gave the film his highest rating, writing: "The story is about two wounded, desperate, marginal people, and how they create for each other a measure of grace." Janet Maslin wrote that the film is "Passionate and furiously alive… This film simply works as a character study, pitilessly well observed and intimately familiar with its terrain."

It nominated for numerous awards around the world, including Academy Awards nominations for best actor Nicolas Cage, actress Elisabeth Shue, and for Figgis for direction and screenplay. Nicolas Cage took home the Best Actor award (as well as awards from the Golden Globes, National Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, and other groups) and was elevated into the realm of Hollywood's most sought-after movie stars. The film also took home Film Independent Spirit Awards for best feature, director Figgis, female lead Shue, and Declan Quinn's cinematography.

Sources:

"Nicolas Cage Revisits His Most Iconic Characters," video interview. GQ, September 18, 2018.

"Cage relishes operatic role in tragic `Leaving Las Vegas'," Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Times, November 5, 1995.

"Leaving Las Vegas" film review, Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Times, November 10, 1995.

"Shue finds outlet for her darker side," Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Times, November 5, 1995.

"Mike Figgis," radio interview with Terri Grosse. Fresh Air, December 5, 1995.

"Lurching Through a Life of Alcoholic Abandon," Janet Maslin. The New York Times, October 27, 1995.

"John O'Brien's bittersweet departure," Chris Nashawaty. Entertainment Weekly, November 10, 1995.

"Viva, "Las Vegas!" - Interviewing Director Mike Figgis," Christopher Null. Filmcritic.com, February 18, 1996.

"Leaving Las Vegas and the Writer Who Didn't Live to See It," Garin Pirnia. Esquire, October 28, 2015.

"Mike Figgis: A Not So Innocent Abroad," Alex Simon. Venice Magazine, June 1999.

"Mike Figgis Reconsiders his Divorce from Hollywood," Bernard Weinraub. The New York Times, November 1, 1995.

IMDb

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

It's amazing that a film like Leaving Las Vegas (1995) was made at all. The 1990 novel by John O'Brien was a semi-autobiographical project by an author who struggled with alcoholism. In a period of sobriety, he poured his own struggles and depression into the fictional story of Hollywood screenwriter who chooses to drink himself to death. The largely unknown novel was out-of-print when art gallery owner and aspiring producer Stuart Regen stumbled across it in a used bookstore. He passed the book to his friend, director Mike Figgis, who thought that the subject matter was so uncommercial that he could try out ideas and techniques without studio interference. "I made that movie saying to myself I'm never gonna win an Academy Award," recalled actor Nicolas Cage in 2018. "I said I don't care, let's just make the movie. Let's be down and dirty."Figgis was at a low point in his career when he received the book from Regen. He immediately latched on to it, writing a first draft in under week, and committed to making the film on a small budget. Nicolas Cage, not yet a major star, had made his mark as a talented actor who delivered quirky, unexpected performances in such films as Raising Arizona (1987), Moonstruck (1987), and Wild at Heart (1990), when he was cast in the starring role of Ben. Figgis had auditioned Elisabeth Shue for an earlier film and immediately thought of her for the role of Sera, the Las Vegas prostitute who takes care of Ben. All of them worked for little money to get it made.Figgis encouraged Cage and Shue to conduct their own research for the roles. Cage spoke with alcoholics and with people who ran programs for problem drinkers, and he hired poet Tony Dingman to be his "drinking coach." "He would say the most poetic, drunken things like, 'You do not kick the bar, you lean into the bar because it's not vino veritas, it's in vino veritas.' He would just spout these things out and of course I'd put them all in the movie." Cage also explored the physiological aspects of alcoholism. "The stomach shrinks and contracts like a fist, and the alcohol's like this injection that goes into the body and relaxes the stomach," he explained to Roger Ebert. "So the performance really largely came from the stomach for me."Shue talked with Las Vegas prostitutes on the strip. "What the women in Vegas explained to me is that you can turn somebody on and feel nothing for them, nothing. That's how you have power over them." Shue channeled her research into improvised scenes with Sera talking to an unseen, unnamed therapist. Figgis filmed the conversations, which he conducted with Shue in character, on the first day of production without knowing if they would even be in the film. "We spent all day long, just sitting there, talking," Shue recalled. "I was so thankful those scenes were in there because it really gives her a voice which she wouldn't have had otherwise."The film was made independently for $4 million on a 28-day schedule, a small production by Hollywood standards, and shot on location in Las Vegas with a small crew. Figgis shot on super 16mm film, a format widely used by independent filmmakers, rather than 35mm, because "It was lighter, it was cheaper, it was grittier, and it was a little more impressionistic." In the pre-digital days, the camera gave the filmmaker more mobility and flexibility. "There was this kind of a guerrilla nature about it," Shue explained. "There was an intensity in the pace that really helped the intensity of the feelings." It also enabled the crew to work quickly, to shoot scenes on the Vegas strip in the midst of crowds and traffic, sometimes without permits.A musician and composer in his own right, director Figgis wrote the film's score and was part of the jazz ensemble that performed it. Sting, who costarred in Figgis' debut feature Stormy Monday (1988), volunteered his services to sing three songs on the soundtrack. Figgis also cast friends and fellow filmmakers in bit parts—Valeria Golino as woman in a bar, Danny Huston and Julian Lennon as bartenders, New Zealand director Vincent Ward as a businessman—and stepped out from behind the camera to play an Eastern European mobster alongside the film's production designer, Waldemar Kalinowski. Mariska Hargitay has a small but important role as a hooker and, in the final minutes of the film, Lou Rawls appears as a sympathetic cab driver.  In a tragic real-life twist, John O'Brien killed himself soon after selling the film rights. He had been in and out of rehab for years and was drinking again when he sold the book. The film was still in preproduction when he shot himself. His father called the novel his "suicide note." But while he never lived to see the film go into production, his family was invited to the set. They were moved by the commitment of the production to honor the vision of novel. And the film's success brought literary recognition to O'Brien, something he never achieved in life. The novel was brought back into print and his unpublished novels were published posthumously.Released to glowing reviews, Leaving Las Vegas was a hit with audiences and critics alike. Roger Ebert gave the film his highest rating, writing: "The story is about two wounded, desperate, marginal people, and how they create for each other a measure of grace." Janet Maslin wrote that the film is "Passionate and furiously alive… This film simply works as a character study, pitilessly well observed and intimately familiar with its terrain."It nominated for numerous awards around the world, including Academy Awards nominations for best actor Nicolas Cage, actress Elisabeth Shue, and for Figgis for direction and screenplay. Nicolas Cage took home the Best Actor award (as well as awards from the Golden Globes, National Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics, New York Film Critics Circle, and other groups) and was elevated into the realm of Hollywood's most sought-after movie stars. The film also took home Film Independent Spirit Awards for best feature, director Figgis, female lead Shue, and Declan Quinn's cinematography.Sources:"Nicolas Cage Revisits His Most Iconic Characters," video interview. GQ, September 18, 2018."Cage relishes operatic role in tragic `Leaving Las Vegas'," Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Times, November 5, 1995."Leaving Las Vegas" film review, Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Times, November 10, 1995."Shue finds outlet for her darker side," Roger Ebert. Chicago Sun-Times, November 5, 1995."Mike Figgis," radio interview with Terri Grosse. Fresh Air, December 5, 1995."Lurching Through a Life of Alcoholic Abandon," Janet Maslin. The New York Times, October 27, 1995."John O'Brien's bittersweet departure," Chris Nashawaty. Entertainment Weekly, November 10, 1995."Viva, "Las Vegas!" - Interviewing Director Mike Figgis," Christopher Null. Filmcritic.com, February 18, 1996."Leaving Las Vegas and the Writer Who Didn't Live to See It," Garin Pirnia. Esquire, October 28, 2015."Mike Figgis: A Not So Innocent Abroad," Alex Simon. Venice Magazine, June 1999."Mike Figgis Reconsiders his Divorce from Hollywood," Bernard Weinraub. The New York Times, November 1, 1995.IMDb

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Mike Figgis was nominated for outstanding directorial achievement by the Directors Guild of America (1995).

Winner of the 1995 award for Best Actor (Nicolas Cage) from the Boston Society of Film Critics.

Winner of the 1995 award for Best Actor (Nicolas Cage) from the National Board of Review.

Winner of the 1995 award for Best Actor (Nicolas Cage) from the Society of Texas Film Critics.

Winner of the 1995 awards for Best Actor (Nicolas Cage) and Best Actress (Elisabeth Shue) from the Chicago Film Critics Association.

Winner of the 1995 awards for Best Director, Best Actor (Nicolas Cage) and Best Actress (Elisabeth Shue) from the National Society of Film Critics.

Winner of the 1995 awards for Best Picture and Best Actor (Nicolas Cage) from the New York Film Critics Circle.

Winner of the 1995 awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Nicolas Cage) and Best Actress (Elisabeth Shue) from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Winner of the Silver Shell awards for Best Director and Best Actor (Nicolas Cage) at the 1995 San Sebastian Film Festival.

Released in United States Fall October 27, 1995

Expanded Release in United States November 3, 1995

Expanded Release in United States November 10, 1995

Expanded Release in United States November 17, 1995

Expanded Release in United States November 22, 1995

Expanded Release in United States December 1, 1995

Expanded Release in United States December 8, 1995

Expanded Release in United States December 29, 1995

Expanded Release in United States January 5, 1996

Expanded Release in United States January 12, 1996

Expanded Release in United States January 19, 1996

Expanded Release in United States January 26, 1996

Expanded Release in United States February 2, 1996

Wide Release in United States February 9, 1996

Released in United States on Video June 4, 1996

Released in United States September 1995

Released in United States November 1995

Shown at San Sebastian Film Festival (in competition) September 14-23, 1995.

Shown at London Film Festival November 2-19, 1995.

Mike Figgis was nominated for the 1995 award for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published by the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

Began shooting September 12, 1994.

Completed shooting October 15, 1994.

Released in United States Fall October 27, 1995

Expanded Release in United States November 3, 1995

Expanded Release in United States November 10, 1995

Expanded Release in United States November 17, 1995

Expanded Release in United States November 22, 1995

Expanded Release in United States December 1, 1995

Expanded Release in United States December 8, 1995

Expanded Release in United States December 29, 1995

Expanded Release in United States January 5, 1996

Expanded Release in United States January 12, 1996

Expanded Release in United States January 19, 1996

Expanded Release in United States January 26, 1996

Expanded Release in United States February 2, 1996

Wide Release in United States February 9, 1996

Released in United States on Video June 4, 1996

Released in United States September 1995 (Shown at San Sebastian Film Festival (in competition) September 14-23, 1995.)

Released in United States November 1995 (Shown at London Film Festival November 2-19, 1995.)

Lila Cazes and Annie Stewart were nominated for the 1995 Golden Laurel Award by the Producers Guild of America.