With LEAVING LAS VEGAS, director Mike Figgis spun critical gold out of what would appear to be a maudlin and hackneyed premise--a down-and-out drunk meets a hooker with a heart of gold. The reason for the film's success lies partly in its refusal to moralize, but mostly it is the strong performances of Nicholas Cage and Elisabeth Shue that make the story believable and poignant. Ben Sanderson (Cage) is a Hollywood screenwriter who has become an alcoholic. After being fired, he takes his severance pay to Las Vegas, where he plans to drink himself to death. There he meets Sera (Shue), a streetwise prostitute who responds both to Ben's wild antics and to his absolute gentleness. What Sera needs most is to be needed, and Ben needs her a lot. Figgis uses his whole bag of tricks--Sera talks to the camera, the exteriors are shot in grainy 16mm--but finally it is the perfectly-conceived relationship between these two wounded people that drew the rave reviews. The film was based on a novel by John O'Brien.
1995 - Academy Awards - Best Actor Winner
Elisabeth Shue - American Actress, LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995)
Richard Lewis - American Comedian/Actor
Mike Figgis - British director/screenwriter, LEAVING LAS VEGAS
Julian Sands - British Actor
David Brisbin - Star, Film and TV movies and appearances, began in mid '80s
Nicolas Cage - American Actor
Nicholas Coppola - American Actor
Nicolas Coppola - American Actor
Declan Quinn - Director Of Photography/"Fallen Angels"
- Format: DVD
- Run Time: 112
- Color Format: Color
- UPC: 027616699725
- Genre: Drama
- Rating: Unrated
- Release Date: September 2004
An alcoholic movie executive who loses his wife, his family and his job decides to drive to Las Vegas and commit suicide by drinking himself to death in this acclaimed adaptation of the late John O'Brien's 1991 autobiographical novel. In Vegas, he meets a nearly equally pathetic young hooker and the two develop a strange, moving bond while waiting for him to die.
Theatrical release: October 27, 1995. Shown at the 1995 Toronto Film Festival. The film was shot on location in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Nicolas Cage won the 1995 Best Actor Academy Award for his role in the film, beating out other favored actors such as Sean Penn (nominated for his role in DEAD MAN WALKING). The Boston Society of Film Critics awarded Nicolas Cage its best actor prize for 1995. The film won Independent Spirit Awards for best picture, actress (Elizabeth Shue), director, and cinematography. Director Mike Figgis played trumpet and keyboards on the film's soundtrack. Nicholas Cage and Elisabeth Shue spent time with alcoholics and prostitutes, respectively, in order to research their roles. John O'Brien, who wrote the novel this film is based on, killed himself two weeks after learning that his book would be adapted for the screen. His father considers the novel his son's suicide note.
"...A uniquely hypnotic and haunting love story sparked by Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue at their career best..." - 11/02/1995 Rolling Stone, p.74-76
"...[Shue holds] her own against Cage, matching him in pain and desolation if not in intensity..." - 01/01/1996 Sight and Sound, p.45
"...Haunting....[Shue and Cage] are excellent..." -- 3 out of 4 stars - 10/27/1995 USA Today, p.2D
"...[Cage's Academy] award was earned ten times over..." - 06/07/1996 Entertainment Weekly, pp.66-7
"...Unrelenting in its vision, the artistic tour de force by director Mike Figgis is a descent into the abyss....Cage is in top form....Shue is equally skillful..." - 09/18/1995 Variety
"...Beautifully put together, sensitively acted by Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue, directed by Mike Figgis with assurance and style and making exceptional use of its musical score....So marvelously put together it's sure to have an effect..." - 10/27/1995 Los Angeles Times, p.F1
"...LEAVING LAS VEGAS is one of the best films of the year....That such a film gets made is a miracle....It is a pure, grand gesture..." - 11/10/1995 Chicago Sun-Times, p.45
"Mike Figgis' superb drama features the town as a corrosive backdrop to Nicolas Cage's self-destructive alcoholism." - 07/01/2004 Uncut, p.131