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Leaving Las Vegas

1995 romantic drama film by Mike Figgis

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Leaving Las Vegas
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Figgis
Produced by
  • Lila Cazès
  • Annie Stewart
Screenplay byMike Figgis
Based onLeaving Las Vegas
by John O'Brien
Music by
CinematographyDeclan Quinn
Edited byJohn Smith
Distributed byMGM/UA Distribution Co.
Release date
  • October 27, 1995 (1995-10-27) (United States)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million[2]
Box office$49.8 million[2]

Leaving Las Vegas is a 1995 American romantic 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 Nevada. Once there, he develops a romantic relationship with a pretty, but hardened prostitute (Elisabeth Shue). O'Brien committed suicide after signing away the film rights to the novel.[3]

Leaving Las Vegas was filmed in super 16mm[4] instead of 35mm 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.

Leaving Las Vegas Intro articles: 8


Ben Sanderson is a 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 an 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 goes looking 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. Sera asks Ben not to criticize her occupation, and he agrees.

At first, the pair are happy, but soon become frustrated with the other's behavior. Sera begs Ben to see a doctor, which makes him furious. While Sera is out 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 next morning, 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, and the two make love. He dies shortly thereafter. Later, Sera explains to her therapist that she accepted Ben for who he was and loved him.

Leaving Las Vegas Plot articles: 10




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.[5][6] 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."[7]


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."[7] 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.[8] He said "it was one of the most enjoyable pieces of research I've ever had to do for a part."[8] Shue spent time interviewing several Las Vegas prostitutes.


The limited budget dictated the production and Figgis ended up filming in super 16mm and composing his own score.[4][9] He remarked, "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".[7] 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."[4]

Figgis had problems because permits were not issued for some street scenes.[10] 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".[7][10]

Leaving Las Vegas Cast articles: 7


Leaving Las Vegas had a limited release on October 27, 1995. After praise from critics and four Academy Award nominations, the film was released nationwide February 9, 1996. United Artists company distributed the film in North America, RCV Film Distribution with Atalanta Filmes in Europe, and in Australia 21st Century Film Corporation distributed the film.

Leaving Las Vegas Release articles: 2


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 91% based on 53 reviews, with an average rating of 7.66/10. 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."[11] It also holds a score of 82 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 23 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[12] Roger Ebert from Chicago Sun-Times and Rick Groen from The Globe and Mail gave the film high marks. Ebert wrote, "They [the characters] are the drunk and the whore with a heart of gold. Cage and Shue make these clichés into unforgettable people". Ebert named the film "best of 1995" and included it with his "best of the decade" list (Leaving Las Vegas was #8).[13] Leonard Klady from Variety said Leaving Las Vegas was "certainly among a scant handful of films that have taken an unflinching view of dependency".[14]

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


Award Category Subject Result
Academy Award Best Actor Nicolas Cage Won
Best Actress Elisabeth Shue Nominated
Best Director Mike Figgis Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
BAFTA Award Best Actor Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Actress Elisabeth Shue Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Mike Figgis Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Director Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Nicolas Cage Won
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Elisabeth Shue Nominated
Best Motion Picture – Drama Lila Cazès & Annie Stewart Nominated
Independent Spirit Award Best Film Won
Best Director Mike Figgis Won
Best Screenplay Nominated
Best Female Lead Elisabeth Shue Won
Best Male Lead Nicolas Cage Nominated
Best Cinematography Declan Quinn Won

Leaving Las Vegas Reception articles: 26

Home media releases

Video cassettes and DVD of the film were distributed by MGM.[15] 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 were later released.[16][17] The DVD contains a supplemental "Hidden Page" menu feature.[15] The film was also released on Blu-ray, HD DVD and LaserDisc.

Leaving Las Vegas Home media releases articles: 10


A soundtrack album, consisting mainly of film score composed and performed by Mike Figgis, was released November 7, 1995.[18] 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

Leaving Las Vegas Soundtrack articles: 15

See also


  1. ^ "LEAVING LAS VEGAS: A Finding Aid to the Collection in the Library of Congress". (1995). Washington, DC: Library of Congress Manuscript Division.  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. ^ Pirina, Garin (October 28, 2015). "Leaving Las Vegas and the Writer Who Didn't Live to See It". Esquire. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Roger Ebert. "Cage relishes operatic role in tragic 'Leaving Las Vegas'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  5. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (November 10, 1995). "Grieving 'Las Vegas' – EW.com". Entertainment Weekly.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ a b c d Noll, Christopher. "Viva, "Las Vegas!" – Interviewing Director Mike Figgis". Film Critic. Archived from the original on September 6, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
  8. ^ a b "Cage Did Serious Research For Alcoholic Role". WENN. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  9. ^ Boyar, Tracy. "It's Worth Watching for Leaving Las Vegas". The Free Lance Star. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
  10. ^ a b Ryan Lampe. "'Leaving Las Vegas' reminds us performance counts". The Stanford Daily. Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  11. ^ "Leaving Las Vegas (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  12. ^ The score from "Leaving Las Vegas Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 22, 2018.
  13. ^ Roger Ebert (November 10, 1995). "Leaving Las Vegas". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  14. ^ Leonard Klady (September 18, 1995). "Leaving Las Vegas". Variety.com. Retrieved December 9, 2006.
  15. ^ a b "DVD details for Leaving Las Vegas". IMDB.com. Retrieved January 8, 2006.
  16. ^ Leaving Las Vegas (1995) VHS. ASIN 6304045824.
  17. ^ Leaving Las Vegas (1995) DVD. ISBN 0792838068.
  18. ^ "Leaving Las Vegas CD". CD Universe.com. Retrieved December 9, 2006.

Further reading

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