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Leaving Las Vegas

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Leaving Las Vegas
Leaving las vegas ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Figgis
Screenplay byMike Figgis
Based onLeaving Las Vegas
by John O'Brien
Produced by
  • Lila Cazès
  • Annie Stewart
CinematographyDeclan Quinn
Edited byJohn Smith
Music by
Distributed byMGM/UA Distribution Co.
Release dates
  • October 27, 1995 (1995-10-27) (Limited)
  • February 9, 1996 (1996-02-09) (Wide)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5–4 million[2][3]
Box office$49.8 million[2]

Leaving Las Vegas is a 1995 American drama film written and directed by Mike Figgis and based on the semi-autobiographical 1990 novel of the same name by John O'Brien. Nicolas Cage stars as a suicidal alcoholic in Los Angeles who, having lost his family and been recently fired, has decided to move to Las Vegas and drink himself to death. He loads a supply of liquor and beer into his BMW and gets drunk as he drives from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Once there, he develops a romantic relationship with a prostitute played by Elisabeth Shue and the film shifts to include her narrative perspective. O'Brien died from suicide after signing away the film rights to the novel.[4]

Leaving Las Vegas was filmed in super 16 mm[5] instead of 35 mm film; while 16 mm was common for art house films at the time, 35 mm is most commonly used for mainstream film. After limited release in the United States on October 27, 1995, Leaving Las Vegas was released nationwide on February 9, 1996, receiving strong praise from critics and audiences. Cage received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama and the Academy Award for Best Actor, while Shue was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama and the Academy Award for Best Actress. The film also received nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director.

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  • Elisabeth Shue Interview For Leaving Las Vegas



Ben Sanderson is an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who has lost his job, family, and friends. With nothing left to live for, and a sizable severance check from his boss, he heads to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. One early morning, he drives drunkenly from his Los Angeles home down to the Las Vegas Strip; he nearly hits a woman, Sera, on the crosswalk. She chastises him and walks away.

Sera is a prostitute working for abusive Latvian pimp Yuri Butsov. Polish mobsters are after Yuri, so he ends his relationship with Sera in fear that the Poles may hurt her. On his second day in Las Vegas, Ben looks for Sera, introduces himself, and offers her $500 to come to his room for an hour. Sera agrees, but Ben does not want sex. Instead, they talk and develop a rapport; Sera invites Ben to move into her apartment. Ben instructs Sera never to ask him to stop drinking. Ben says he will not criticize her occupation and she thanks him.

At first, the pair are happy but soon become frustrated with the other's behavior. Sera begs Ben to see a doctor, which he refuses to do. While Sera is working, Ben goes to a casino and returns with another prostitute. Sera returns to find them in her bed and throws Ben out. Shortly afterward, Sera is approached by three college students at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino. She initially rejects their offer by stating that she only "dates" one at a time but eventually acquiesces when she is offered an increased price. When she enters their hotel room, the students change the deal and demand anal sex, which she refuses. When she attempts to leave, they violently gang-rape her.

The following day, Sera is spotted by her landlady returning home bruised and is evicted. Sera receives a call from Ben, who is on his deathbed. Sera visits Ben, the two make love, and he dies shortly thereafter. Later, Sera explains to her therapist that she accepted Ben for who he was and loved him.




Mike Figgis based Leaving Las Vegas on a 1990 autobiographical novel by John O'Brien, who died of suicide in April 1994, shortly after finding out his novel was being used as the basis for a film.[6][7] Despite basing most of his screenplay on O'Brien's novel, Figgis spoke of a personal attachment with the novel, stating "Anything I would do would be because I had a sympathetic feeling towards it. That's why I did Mr. Jones, because I think manic-depression is a fascinating, sad, and amazing phenomenon. It's not a coincidence that some of the greatest artists have been manic-depressives. That made it, to me, a fascinating subject that, alas, did not come out in the film."[8]


Figgis encouraged the lead actors to experience their characters' ordeals first-hand by extensive research. He told Film Critic: "It was just a week and a half of rehearsal. A lot of conversations. A lot of communication in the year before we made the film. Reading the book. I encouraged them [Cage and Shue] to do their own research, which they wanted to do anyway, and then ultimately the three of us got together and just started talking...talking about anything, not necessarily about the film or the script, about anything that came up."[8] Cage researched by binge drinking in Dublin for two weeks and had a friend videotape him so he could study his speech. He also visited hospitalized career alcoholics.[9] He said "it was one of the most enjoyable pieces of research I've ever had to do for a part."[9] Shue spent time interviewing several Las Vegas prostitutes.[10]


The limited budget dictated the production and Figgis ended up filming in super 16mm and composing his own score.[5][11] He said "We didn't have any money, and we weren't pretending to be something we weren't. We couldn't shut down The Strip to shoot".[8] Cage recounted that he found the use of 16mm liberating as an actor stating in a 1995 interview with Roger Ebert:

"As an actor, having a 16-mm. camera in my face was liberating because it's much smaller, so you don't feel as intimidated by it. It catches those little nuances. Because as soon as that big camera's in your face, you tense up a little bit. Film acting is a learning experience about how to get over that, but I don't know that you ever really do."[5]

Figgis had problems because permits were not issued for some street scenes.[12] This caused him to film some scenes on the Las Vegas strip in one take to avoid the police, which Figgis said benefited production and the authenticity of the acting, remarking "I've always hated the convention of shooting on a street, and then having to stop the traffic, and then having to tell the actors, 'Well, there's meant to be traffic here, so you're going to have to shout.' And they're shouting, but it's quiet and they feel really stupid, because it's unnatural. You put them up against a couple of trucks, with it all happening around them, and their voices become great".[8][12] Filming took place over 28 days.[13]


Leaving Las Vegas had a limited release on October 27, 1995.[13] As it won awards from multiple film critics’ organizations and earned four Academy Award nominations, the film's release was expanded and it ultimately opened nationwide on February 9, 1996.[10][14][15] United Artists distributed the film in North America, while RCV Film Distribution and Atalanta Filmes handled the European release, and 21st Century Film Corporation distributed the film in Australia. MGM/UA reportedly spent less than $2 million marketing the film, which included TV spots and ads in industry publications.[13]


The film was a success at the box office, particularly considering its budget, grossing $49.8 million.[2]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 91% based on 53 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Oscar-awarded Nicolas Cage finds humanity in his character as it bleeds away in this no frills, exhilaratingly dark portrait of destruction."[16] It also holds a score of 82 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 23 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[17]

Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun-Times and Rick Groen from The Globe and Mail gave the film high marks.[18] Ebert wrote, "If there are two unplayable roles in the stock repertory, they are the drunk and the whore with a heart of gold. Cage and Shue make these cliches into unforgettable people."[19] Ebert named the film "best of 1995" and included it in his "best of the decade" list in the number 8 spot.[20] Leonard Klady from Variety wrote Leaving Las Vegas was "certainly among a scant handful of films that have taken an unflinching view of dependency."[21]


Award Category Subject Result
20/20 Awards Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
Best Actress Elisabeth Shue Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Mike Figgis Nominated
Academy Awards Best Director Nominated
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
Best Actress Elisabeth Shue Nominated
Best Screenplay – Based on Material Previously Produced or Published Mike Figgis Nominated
Awards Circuit Community Awards Best Motion Picture Lila Cazès and Annie Stewart Nominated
Best Director Mike Figgis Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Nicolas Cage Won
Best Actress in a Leading Role Elisabeth Shue Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Mike Figgis Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
British Academy Film  Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Elisabeth Shue Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Mike Figgis Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Director Nominated
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
Best Actress Elisabeth Shue Won
Chlotrudis Awards Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Actress Elisabeth Shue Nominated
Critics' Choice Awards Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Picture Won
Best Director Mike Figgis Won
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
Best Actress Elisabeth Shue Won
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Mike Figgis Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Nicolas Cage Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Elisabeth Shue Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Mike Figgis Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards Best Film Won
Best Director Mike Figgis Won
Best Male Lead Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Female Lead Elisabeth Shue Won
Best Screenplay Mike Figgis Nominated
Best Cinematography Declan Quinn Won
Jupiter Awards Best International Actor Nicolas Cage [a] Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Film Won
Best Director Mike Figgis Won
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
Best Actress Elisabeth Shue Won
Best Screenplay Mike Figgis Runner-up
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 4th Place
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Director Mike Figgis Won
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
Best Actress Elisabeth Shue Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Won
Best Director Mike Figgis 2nd Place
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
Best Actress Elisabeth Shue 2nd Place
San Sebastián International Film Festival Golden Shell Mike Figgis Nominated
Best Director Won
Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
Sant Jordi Awards Best Foreign Actor Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Won
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Elisabeth Shue Nominated
Society of Texas Film Critics Awards Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
Turkish Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film 10th Place
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Screenplay – Based on Material Previously Produced or Published Mike Figgis Nominated

Home media

Video cassettes and DVD of the film were distributed by MGM Home Entertainment.[22] The video cassettes were distributed on November 12, 1996 in two languages, English and Russian, while the DVD was distributed on January 1, 1998 in English for USA and Canada. Australian and UK editions later were released.[23][24] The DVD contains a supplemental "Hidden Page" menu feature.[25] The film was also released on Blu-ray, HD DVD and LaserDisc.[26]


A soundtrack album, consisting mainly of film score composed and performed by Mike Figgis, was released November 7, 1995.[27] The soundtrack also included three jazz standards performed by Sting and excerpts of dialogue from the film. A version of "Lonely Teardrops" performed by Michael McDonald that features in the film is not included.

All tracks are written by Mike Figgis except as noted.

1."Intro Dialogue" (dialogue) Nicolas Cage as Ben
Elisabeth Shue as Sera
2."Angel Eyes"Matt Dennis, Earl BrentSting4:02
3."Are You Desirable?" Mike Figgis2:43
4."Ben & Bill" (dialogue) Nicolas Cage as Ben0:30
5."Leaving Las Vegas" Mike Figgis3:12
6."Sera's Dark Side" Mike Figgis1:26
7."Mara" Mike Figgis4:28
8."Burlesque" Mike Figgis2:40
9."On The Street" (dialogue) Nicolas Cage as Ben
Elisabeth Shue as Sera
10."Bossa Vega" Mike Figgis3:14
11."Ben Pawns His Rolex/Sera Talks to Her Shrink" (dialogue) Nicolas Cage as Ben
Elisabeth Shue as Sera
12."My One and Only Love"Robert Mellin, Guy WoodSting3:36
13."Sera Invites Ben to Stay" (dialogue) Nicolas Cage as Ben
Elisabeth Shue as Sera
14."Come Rain or Come Shine"Harold Arlen, Johnny MercerDon Henley3:41
15."Ben and Sera – Theme" (dialogue) Nicolas Cage as Ben
Elisabeth Shue as Sera
16."Ridiculous"Phil Roy, Nicolas CageNicolas Cage1:03
17."Biker Bar" Mike Figgis3:44
18."Ben's Hell" Mike Figgis1:37
19."It's a Lonesome Old Town"Harry Tobias, Charles KiscoSting2:37
20."Blues For Ben" Mike Figgis1:56
21."Get Out" Mike Figgis1:49
22."Reunited" Mike Figgis3:28
23."Sera Talks to the Cab Driver" (dialogue) Elisabeth Shue as Sera
Lou Rawls as Concerned Cabbie
24."She Really Loved Him" Mike Figgis1:17
25."I Won't Be Going South For a While"Angelo PalladinoThe Palladinos4:27

See also


  1. ^ Also for The Rock.


  1. ^ "LEAVING LAS VEGAS: A Finding Aid to the Collection in the Library of Congress". (1995). Washington, DC: Library of Congress Manuscript Division. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ a b c "Box Office Information for Leaving Las Vegas". The Numbers. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
  3. ^ Feinberg, Scott (February 1, 2022). "Oscars: Six Contenders on the Challenges and Rewards of Making 2021 Indies". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 2, 2022.
  4. ^ Pirina, Garin (October 28, 2015). "Leaving Las Vegas and the Writer Who Didn't Live to See It". Esquire. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Ebert, Roger (November 5, 1995). "Cage relishes operatic role in tragic 'Leaving Las Vegas'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  6. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (November 10, 1995). "Grieving 'Las Vegas'". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on March 31, 2007.
  7. ^ Scott, A. O. "FILM REVIEW;Lurching Through a Life Of Alcoholic Abandon". NY Times. Archived from the original on February 8, 2013. Retrieved January 16, 2007.
  8. ^ a b c d Noll, Christopher (February 18, 1996). "Viva, "Las Vegas!" – Interviewing Director Mike Figgis". Film Critic. Archived from the original on September 6, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
  9. ^ a b "Cage Did Serious Research For Alcoholic Role". WENN. August 9, 2000. Archived from the original on July 5, 2004. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  10. ^ a b "'Vegas' Stars Cage, Shue Ponder Chances for Oscar". Sun-Sentinel. February 12, 1996. Archived from the original on June 21, 2021. Retrieved October 11, 2022.
  11. ^ Boyar, Tracy (February 9, 1996). "It's Worth Watching for Leaving Las Vegas". The Free Lance Star. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
  12. ^ a b Lampe, Ryan (November 4, 2005). "'Leaving Las Vegas' reminds us performance counts". The Stanford Daily. Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  13. ^ a b c Puig, Claudia (January 10, 1996). "'Leaving' Preconceptions Behind? : As Acclaim Grows and Distribution Widens, 'Vegas' Seeks Mainstream Respect". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 11, 2022. Retrieved October 11, 2022.
  14. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (February 14, 1996). "Oscar Nominations Are Just One Surprise After Another". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 11, 2022.
  15. ^ Simon, Jeff (February 18, 1996). "How Nicolas Cage Gambled on 'Vegas' -- and Came Up Big". The Buffalo News. Archived from the original on October 11, 2022. Retrieved October 11, 2022.
  16. ^ "Leaving Las Vegas (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
  17. ^ The score from "Leaving Las Vegas Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
  18. ^ Groen, Rick (October 27, 1995). "Film Review: Leaving Las Vegas". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on October 7, 2002. Retrieved October 11, 2022.
  19. ^ Roger Ebert (November 10, 1995). "Leaving Las Vegas". Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  20. ^ "Ebert & Scorsese: Best Films of the 1990s". February 26, 2000. Retrieved October 11, 2022.
  21. ^ Leonard Klady (September 18, 1995). "Leaving Las Vegas". Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  22. ^ "Leaving Las Vegas (1995) - All releases". AllMovie. Retrieved October 11, 2022.
  23. ^ Leaving Las Vegas (1995) VHS. ASIN 6304045824.
  24. ^ Leaving Las Vegas (1995) DVD. ISBN 0792838068.
  25. ^ "Leaving Las Vegas DVD". Retrieved October 11, 2022.
  26. ^ "Leaving Las Vegas Blu-ray". June 18, 2016. Retrieved October 11, 2022.
  27. ^ "Leaving Las Vegas CD". CD Retrieved December 9, 2006.

Further reading

External links

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