Gus Van Sant (born Gus Green Van Sant, 24.7.1952)
Gus Van Sant is an American film director, producer and screenwriter, as well as a musician and author. Amongst his most recognised works are Good Will Hunting, Milk and Elephant.
Gus Van Sant: Childhood
Gus Van Sant was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, by his mother, Betty and his father, also named Gus Green Van Sant Sr. His father worked as a clothes manufacturer and travelling salesman. Gus attended Darien High School and the Catlin Gabel School in Portland, Oregon. He showed an interest in painting and filming on Super-8 cameras, even whilst he was at school.
In 1970, Gus Van Sant enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design, along with David Byrne of Talking Heads. It was here, that Van Sant was introduced to the works of Jonas Mekas and Andy Warhol. Van Sant is openly gay, and once lived with Harvey Milk, as well as having had a relationship with Sir Ian McKellan.
Gus Van Sant: A Career in Film
Gus Van Sant moved to Los Angeles in 1976, after spending some time in Europe. In LA, he began working with Ken Shapiro, a film writer and director. Then, in 1981, Van Sant made Alice in Hollywood, though the film was never released. During these early years in Los Angeles, Van Sant became interested in the seedier underworld of Hollywood. This interest culminated in the release of his 1985 film Mala Noche, two years after he had moved to New York to work at an advertising agency, saving the money that he earned in order to finance the film. The story for the film was based on Walt Curtis's novella of the same name.
Major studios, such as Universal quickly became interested in Van Sant, but they were not so interested in the ideas that he had. He soon moved back to Portland, Oregon and began working on those rejected ideas. In 1989, he released Drugstore Cowboy, featuring Matt Dillon. Two years later, he released My Own Private Idaho, the critically acclaimed film that featured River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves. It was an especially important film for Keanu Reeves, as it helped him to shake off the bad reputation that had pestered him since he starred in the Bill and Ted movies.
In 1993, Gus Van Sant released Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, an adaptation of the Tom Robbins book, featuring River Phoenix and his sister Rain Phoenix, Uma Thurman, John Hurt and Keanu Reeves. The response to the film was poor.
Thankfully, two years later, the director released his next project, entitled To Die For, starring Matt Dillon and Nicole Kidman in an adaptation of a Joyce Maynard novel. The film also starred another Phoenix sibling, Joaquin Phoenix, a year and a half after River's death from a drug overdose. To Die For was Gus Van Sant's first project working for a major studio. He also worked as an executive producer on Larry Clark's controversial movie Kids.
Acceptance into the mainstream proved favourable for Gus van Sant. In 1997, he made Good Will Hunting, starring Matt Damon, Robin Williams and Ben Affleck. The film won a number of Academy Award nominations, including a Best Director nomination for Van Sant. Damon and Affleck parodied themselves later in Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
Van Sant was then offered the chance to remake Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, He did so, and enlisted Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche and Julianne Moore. The film received a moderate response from critics and public alike.
2000's Finding Forrester turned out to be a bigger success, starring Rob Brown and Sean Connery. Following this release, Gus Van Sant returned to making low-budget arthouse films, inspired by the likes of John Cassavettes and Bel Tarr. He made Gerry, with Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, which polarised opinion at the Sundance Film Festival.
Elephant was Van Sant's take on the 1999 Columbine High School Massacre and featured local Portland teenagers, untrained as actors. Again, reactions to the film were dramatically polarised. 2005 saw Van Sant release Last Days, fictionalizing the days leading up to the death of Kurt Cobain, of the band Nirvana. The film starred Michael Pitt in the lead role.
Paranoid Park was release in 2006. Based on the book by Blake Nelson, the film starred Gabe Nevins and Taylor Momsen. Van Sant also contributed a short film to Paris, je t'aime, a collection of shorts, featuring Natalie Portman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Elijah Wood and Steve Buscemi.
One of Gus Van Sant's most popular films, Milk, was released in 2008. The biopic centered on the life and career of the US politician, Harvey Milk, as played by Sean Penn. The film won two Oscars, a Best Actor award for Penn and Best Original Screenplay for Dustin Lance Black.
The Oscar winner's new suicide drama is dividing opinion with its first screenings at Cannes.
Matthew Mcconaughey has completely reinvented himself since his shirt-on, shirt-off rom-com days, going on to star in darker and better-received dramas like Killer Joe, the acclaimed TV series True Detective, Christopher Nolan's space epic Interstellar and, of course, Dallas Buyers Club, for which he won his first Oscar. It looked like the man could do no wrong.
Matthew McConaughey's new film has gone down badly at Cannes
And then came the boos and laughter at the recent Cannes press screening of The Sea Of Trees, a spiritual drama in which he plays a suicidal man who has a life-changing encounter with a stranger in Japan's Aokigahara woods. As an A-list actor who's become much more used to praise in the last four years, McConaughey responded (we have to say, rather well) to the audience's negative reactions, saying, "Anyone has as much right to boo as they do to ovate".
Continue reading: First Boos And Now Applause For Matthew McConaughey's 'Sea Of Trees'
Naomi Watts, Matthew Mcconaughey and Gus Van Sant - A variety of celebrities were photographed as they took to the red carpet at the 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of 'Sea of Trees' in Cannes, France - Saturday 16th May 2015
Movies that allow us to wallow in a trashy story for a couple of hours can often become a guilty pleasure, and this lurid concoction blends the skills of Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) and Paul Schrader (American Gigolo) for an entertaining story of sexual depravity with Hitchcockian overtones. It's a bit clumsy and corny, but the characters and situations hold our interest simply because we have no idea where it's heading.
In the canyons around Malibu, independently wealthy Christian (Deen) has decided to produce a low-budget slasher movie starring the sexy actor Ryan (Funk), boyfriend of Christian's assistant Gina (Brooks). Christian's girlfriend Tara (Lohan) is trying to stay out of all of this, but Christian keeps telling everyone about their wild sex life with random third and fourth partners. Their one rule is that they won't lie to each other, but both are keeping secrets: Tara has started seeing Ryan, who's actually her ex, while Christian is sleeping with his yoga teacher (Houston). And when these secrets emerge, trouble follows.
Christian is the usual Ellis protagonist, a guy with no real moral centre: his whole life seems lifted from the movies, and Deen plays him as a preening peacock, arrogantly sure he is in control of everything. He's a charismatic villain, and Deen commands the screen. But Lohan gives just as good as the more emotional Tara, who is a bundle of naivete and duplicity, driven by insecurity and just as power-mad as Christian, really. Opposite them, Funk and Brooks are playing the innocents caught in their depraved web, so they're the ones we can identify with.
Continue reading: The Canyons Review
James Franco may have let slip who’s on board to direct Fifty Shades of Grey. The actor was speaking to the Sunday Times at the Sundance Festival and revealed that he was under the impression that Gus Van Sant was on board to do it. And, he revealed, if the Good Will Hunting director was on board, he’d be in favour of stepping into the hotkey-contested role of Christian Grey.
“It sounds interesting,” said Franco, when asked about the forthcoming novel adaptation. “I heard Gus [Van Sant] might direct it. If he directed it, I'd do it.” It wouldn’t be the first time that Franco had been involved in a cinematic BDSM adventure, either. He produced the BDSM documentary Kink as well as playing the role of Hugh Hefner in the porn biopic Lovelace. Gus Van Sant is no stranger to a controversial subject matter, either, with movies such as My Own Private Idaho and Drugstore Cowboy under his belt. Interestingly, as Examiner.com reported, Van Sant recently finished filming Promised Land, with the very same production company being used on Fifty Shades of Grey.
Fans of Fifty Shades are starting get impatient, waiting to find out who will be cast in the movie, as well as who will helm the production from the director’s chair. A number of fan-made ‘trailers’ have surfaced, including one with Amanda Seyfried and Garrett Hedlund but excited fans will be disappointed to learn that the movie has not been cast yet.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Django Unchained are riding high at the top of the US box office charts and as the movie industry lurches slowly into the new year, it’s likely that they’ll remain there. After all, an unsolicited addition to the Texas Chainsaw collection is hardly going to have the pulling power to shift some of the biggest movies of last year off the top of that chart.
That, however, is one of the biggest movies of the week: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D. That’s right. An extra dimension has been added to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre story. No, we’re not sure why, either. The phrase “let’s leave well alone, shall we?” springs to mind. The horror genre was just fine and dandy with the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the other Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation and... okay all you need to know is that there are already seven of these movies.. but hey, now we have one in 3D, so that, presumably, you can fear not only for the safety of the characters onscreen, but also for the integrity of your own eyeballs, as chainsaw after chainsaw comes flying out of the screen and straight towards your face.
In a classic game of paper, scissors, stone, it becomes quickly apparent that ‘chainsaw’ beats ‘wooden door’ as good old Leatherface wreaks havoc with his favourite power tool once more. Unsurprisingly, it has been met with a tired response, with one reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes describing the film as a “giant turd of a movie.” So, probably not bound for big bucks box office success, then. Bound to divide audiences this one. Divide them between ‘Don’t really like it’ and ‘Really don’t like it,’ that is.
Matt Damon rarely makes a bad film, but with a 49% rotten rating on review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes, something has clearly gone wrong for his latest movie Promised Land.
Promised Land is about 'Fracking', which is a technique of drilling the ground to exhume natural resources from the Earth including oil and natural gases. Damon plays a salesman who is trying to buy rights for drilling in a rural American town, only to be met with great resistance, despite the money of the potential sales being needed after the economic downturn.
Clearly, this is a serious movie. However, as the New York Times says, that seriousness seems not to align itself with the movie's intentions: "Promised Land feels divided against itself, not quite sure how to reconcile its polemical intentions with its storytelling impulses, and thus finally unable to fulfill its own promise." Likewise, the Village Voice doesn't see the film's clarity saying it's "a hard-sell movie because it doesn't have the confidence in its audience to make any other outcome seem personally viable, to give the opposition a fighting chance or persuasive voice." The Los Angeles Times considers it to be contrived and "an echo of a convincing film rather than the real deal."
Continue reading: Matt Damon's 'Promised Land' Flops With Reviewers, but Why?
Awards season kicked off in earnest this week with two major critical bodies - New York Critics and the National Board of Review - both naming the Osama bin Laden raid thriller Zero Dark Thirty as their film of the year. Jessica Chastain stars in the movie, which reunites director Kathryn Bigelow with The Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal. The new trailer promises another exciting, intense military action drama.
Another major awards contender is Tom Hooper's film of the epic musical Les Miserables, with a high-powered cast including Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmayne and Amanda Seyfried. All of them attended the glitzy red carpet world premiere in London this week. The film opens in America on Christmas Day, and in Britain in early January.
Among arrivals for the 'Promised Land' premiere in New York were the movie's stars Matt Damon with his wife Luciana Barroso, Scoot McNairy with his wife and 'Monsters' co-star Whitney Able, John Krasinski, Rosemarie DeWitt and her husband Ron Livingston. Producer Mike Sablone and director Gus Van Sant were also present.
Steve Butler is a successful businessman as part of a natural gas company who wishes to close down failing farming communities in order to obtain resources. He and his business partner Sue Thomason go to visit a particular town that is suffering a lot in the economic crisis in the hope that it will be easy to get drilling rights for the farmers' land in order to gain important resources through hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as 'fracking'. Things do seem easy at first, with his proposition providing some hope of economic relief for many members of the community, however he is soon challenged when a highly regarded teacher from the school and a determined grassroots campaigner object to the proposal and go about trying to get the rest of the town to vote against it.
'Promised Land' is a particularly appropriate film for the current economic climate and raises important issues that are of real concern to many. It has been directed by Gus Van Sant ('Good Will Hunting', 'Milk', 'Paris, je t'aime'), written by the movie's stars John Krasinski and Oscar winner Matt Damon (writer of 'Good Will Hunting') and based on a story by Dave Eggers ('Away We Go', 'Where the Wild Things Are') and is set to hit screens in the UK next year on April 19th 2013.
Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Continue: Promised Land Trailer