Alex Gibney, Ken Kesey, and the Merry Pranksters
Friday, August 12, 2011
Back in 1964, some friends painted a school bus in wild colors and took a cross-country trip, hoping to take in some scenery and freak out the squares.
The writer Ken Kesey and his friends the Merry Pranksters crossed the country and back again, filming themselves and their drug-fuelled exploits. They intended to make a documentary, but the reels sat rusting in the Kesey family barn the last four decades.
Enter Alex Gibney, one of the most prolific documentary filmmakers working today. He’s probably best know for Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005), and he won the best-documentary Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side (2007).
Now he’s turned the Pranksters’ footage into a film called Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place. It shows an America on the precipice of huge change.
“This was not just home movies,” Gibney tells Kurt Andersen. “The movie of this bus trip would be the new kind of novel that Ken Kesey was going to write. He had tried of the literary scene and now his tools were going to be the movie camera and the tape recorder, and this was going to be this big movie that would take the country by storm.”
Video: Ken Kesey participates in psychedelic drug experiments — a clip from Magic Trip