"I think that's a big part of the book that was missing," said Thompson of his work, which was first published in Rolling Stone in October 1971.
In the film, however, director Gilliam and producer Laila Nabulsi opted to add that cultural context, in a sense bringing Acosta back out of the relative obscurity he sank into after his disappearance.
Props used in production of the film are the only clues to Dr. Gonzo's true identity. In one scene, Duke phones Gonzo at his L.A. office. On Gonzo's walls are posters with the images of the United Farm Workers' symbol and UFW leader Cesar Chavez's face.
But Acosta told his own story. Just as Thompson was inspired by his adventures to write "Fear and Loathing," Acosta too was inspired to document his experiences, most notably in two semi-fictionalized books, "Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo" (1972) and "Revolt of the Cockroach People" (1973), which his son is developing into feature films.
"Oscar had that kind of natural weird spirit," Thompson said. "There aren't that many of us in the world, and we recognize each other. His writing was just an extension of that."
In his 1995 book, "Bandido: Oscar 'Zeta' Acosta and the Chicano Experience," author Ilan Stavans likens him to a "flirtatious yet angry" version of "A Streetcar Named Desire's" Stanley Kowalski. And it was Acosta's wild spirit and extreme persona that attracted Del Toro to the role of Dr. Gonzo. That, and Thompson's amazing written account of their friendship, according to the actor.
"Dr. Gonzo is all about rage," Del Toro said. "And about forcing the silent majority to wake up. He's all about loathing."
Rage and complete disregard for authority were Acosta's trademarks. They're the stuff legends are made of, the kind of attributes that make some people larger than life.
"He would do things like drop me off at the airport in my rental car, and then two months later I'd get a bill for three weeks that he used the car," Thompson said, laughing at the memory. "He'd forget to take it back."
Acosta literally vanished without a trace. His body was never found and his family assumes he met a bad end in Mexico. Thompson speculated that he was either the victim of a political assassination or that he died at the hands of drug dealers.
In the foreword to a reprint of Acosta's "Revolt of the Cockroach People," Thompson summed up his friend's life:
"His birthday is not noted in any calendar, and his death is barely noticed. . . . But the hole he left was a big one, and nobody even tried to sew it up."
These days, that hole is still gaping, according to Thompson. "For some horrible reason I miss him. I miss him like I miss the smell of tear gas."