Phoenix, in interviews, was clearly thrilled when writer/director Gus Van Sant credited him with having written this scene in Van Sant's wonderful 1991 movie My Own Private Idaho. He should have been. Emotionally, it's a doozy, and it serves as the point at which these two fractured lives separate into their own trajectories. Mike's takes him back again and again to the same dogged search for love and the same stretch of empty highway. Scott's takes him to Italy, where he falls in love with the beautiful Carmella (Chiara Caselli) and, ultimately, to an encounter in Portland with his street mentor Bob (William Richert). Here the movie takes an unexpected Shakespearean turn as Van Sant lifts fragments from Henry IV, casting Scott as Prince Hal to Bob's Falstaff, even as Mike's story continues on in the real world. We know from Shakespeare that Scott will turn his back on his old friends and assume the throne in the end. If Mike is heartbroken it's because life in the real world is hard; that's why we have private ones.
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