“For No Good Reason” explores the artistic process of Ralph Steadman. (Sony Pictures Classics) “For No Good Reason” explores the artistic process of Ralph Steadman. (Sony Pictures Classics)

Every time you crack open a bottle of Flying Dog beer (we like the Raging Bitch IPA best), you’re holding a little bit of art history in your hand. The Frederick, Md., brewery’s labels feature drawings by artist Ralph Steadman, who came to prominence as the illustrator for many of rebel journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s best-known stories.

“For No Good Reason,” opening locally Friday, is about Steadman, and it’s a bit of a rebel itself.

“I didn’t want a film that was just an art documentary which was there to educate,” director Charlie Paul says. “There’s no one telling you what Ralph meant to the world; that’s for the audience to decide.”

Paul and his wife, Lucy, who served as producer, worked on the film off and on for the better part of 15 years. It wasn’t supposed to take that long, Paul says, but he found himself merrily (and rather blindly) going along for the ride.

“When I set out [to make the film] I had as much of an idea of what’s coming next as Ralph does when he splats his ink out onto the page and goes, ‘OK, where am I going?’ ” Paul says. “It was very open, very exploratory in the early stages. It was only in the latter stages we started putting fences around certain stories and holding on to certain things that we knew were vital parts of the film we wanted to make. The whole thing, in the end, dictated its own structure.”

That’s similar to how Steadman works (the opening scene is, just as Paul says, Steadman splattering ink onto paper and then figuring out what he wants to draw). In fact, the director eventually saw Steadman’s artistic process informing his own.

“I made this film, in the end, as a reflection of Ralph’s art,” Paul says. “It was my way of taking what he does and taking it to a new medium. It is hopefully a filmic equivalent to Ralph’s art process.”


Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW; opens Fri.; 202-783-9494, landmarktheatres.com. (Metro Center)