Leaving Las Vegas is a story about Ben Sanderson, played by Nicolas Cage, a troubled alcoholic. The narrative begins when his wife leaves him and takes their son with her. Ben’s drinking becomes worse, eventually leading to his termination from his screenwriting job. With his life in shambles, Ben decides to move to Las Vegas and drink himself to death. Shortly after his arrival, Ben meets Sera, played by Elisabeth Shue, a local prostitute with some issues of her own. This 1995 film was directed and written by Mike Figgis. Check out various Leaving Las Vegas screen facts below.
In Memory of John O’Brien
In 1990, John O’Brien published the novel Leaving Las Vegas. As a writer, O’Brien was skilled at telling stories about loners and painful realities. Mike Figgis wanted to turn the novel into a movie. Two weeks after production began, John committed suicide. Figgis considered abandoning the project, but decided the movie would be a good memorial for O’Brien.
In the film, Nicolas Cage, who plays Ben, wears a Rolex watch. The watch is actually O’Brien’s real watch.
Throughout the entire movie, Ben’s character doesn’t eat anything. Since he’s an addict, this demonstrates his dependence on alcohol as many alcoholics forget to eat or can’t keep food down.
At two moments, Ben comes close to enjoying a meal. Once in a restaurant, he puts spaghetti on his fork, but doesn’t take a bite. Later on, Sera makes rice for him, but Ben eats an ice cube instead.
Viewers may have noticed roof board advertisements on taxis with the brand “Red Mullet” peppered into scenes of the film. This is Mike Figgis’ production company and his face is on the posters.
On the other hand, a reputable alcohol company objected to a person drinking themselves to death. Every shot with a bottle of their product was digitally adjusted to conceal the label.
Approved by the Pros
Roger Ebert, a well-known film critic and blogger, ranked Leaving Las Vegas as the 7th best movie of the 1990s. Roger also included this film on the “Great Movies” list.
Elisabeth Shue was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Leaving Las Vegas. Interestingly, the solo scenes of Sera possibly talking to herself, an unidentified person, or a therapist were from Shue’s wardrobe, hair and make-up tests prior to production. Mike Figgis added them to the final movie because he felt the clips strengthened the narrative. This means Shue may be the only actress to ever be Oscar-nominated for film testing.
Award Winning Drunk
Nicolas Cage’s performance as Ben Sanderson earned him several high ranks as one of the best drunks in the film. In April 2011, Time Magazine named Ben as one of the Top 10 Sloppiest Movie Drunks. In 2005, Empire Magazine named the “supermarket sweep” scene as the eighth greatest drunk scene in movie history.