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Gus Van Sant, the American director known best known for the blockbuster hit Good Will Hunting, starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
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Gus Van Sant, the American director known best known for the blockbuster hit Good Will Hunting, starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Van Sant's first critical acclaim came with the film Mala Noche and continued with Drugstore Cowboy,
“If you don't have the story and the unfolding of the trajectory of the saga, it's like getting in a car and not having any gas.”
Director, screenwriter. Born Gus Green Van Sant on July 24, 1952, in Louisville, Kentucky. The son of an executive, Van Sant moved around a lot during his early years. His family eventually settled down in Darien, Connecticut, when he was 10 years old. As a child, he was interested in art and made films using a home movie camera. He spent his senior year of high school in Portland, Oregon, after his father started a new job in the city. With friend Eric Edwards, Van Sant made his first serious film effort there—a 20-minute black-and-white family drama entitled The Happy Organ.
Van Sant studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design after high school, but he soon switched to filmmaking. He graduated from college in 1975 and moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as an assistant to director Ken Shapiro. Van Sant also found time to make his own films, including one based on a story by William S. Burroughs.
After several years in California, Van Sant took a job in New York City directing commercials for an advertising agency. He continued to explore his interest in film on the side by writing screenplays in his spare time. Using the money he saved from his advertising job, Van Sant funded his first feature film, Mala Noche (1985). The movie, adapted from a novel by Walt Curtis, tells the story of a gay convenience store clerk’s infatuation with a Mexican immigrant. In 1987, Mala Noche won the Los Angeles Film Critics’ Award for best independent film.
For his next effort, Van Sant delved into the gritty reality of drug addiction. Drugstore Cowboy (1989) starred Matt Dillon as the leader of a group of junkies who steal to support their habit. Set in Oregon during the 1970s, the film received praise for its honest portrayal of drug use and addiction. Dillon, a former teen idol, and Kelly Preston, who played his girlfriend, also earned accolades for their compelling performances.
Continuing to explore the seamier side of life, Van Sant directed My Own Private Idaho (1991) starring Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix. The film was Van Sant’s own take on William Shakespeare’s Henry IV plays. In the movie Phoenix plays Mike Waters, a narcoleptic gay street hustler who befriends and falls for Reeves’s character, Scott Favor, another hustler from an affluent background. Together they search for Mike’s mother. To tell the story Van Sant incorporated many Shakespearean references and elements of magical realism.
For his next film, Van Sant decided to adapt Tom Robbins’s novel, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1994) for the big screen.
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