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Gus Green Van Sant Jr. (born July 24, 1952) is an American film director, producer, photographer and musician who has earned acclaim as both an
independent Independent or Independents may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Artist groups * Independents (artist group), a group of modernist painters based in the New Hope, Pennsylvania, area of the United States during the early 1930s * Independent ...
and
mainstreamThe mainstream is the prevalent current thought In their most common sense, the terms thought and thinking refer to conscious cognitive processes that can happen independently of sensory stimulation. Their most paradigmatic forms are judging, rea ...
filmmaker. His films typically deal with themes of marginalized subcultures, in particular homosexuality; as a result, Van Sant is considered one of the most prominent
auteur An auteur (; , 'author An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book A book is a medium for recording information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question ...

auteur
s of the
New Queer Cinema "New Queer Cinema" is a term first coined by the academic B. Ruby Rich in ''Sight & Sound ''Sight & Sound'' is a United Kingdom, British monthly film magazine published by the British Film Institute (BFI). History and content ''Sight & Sound'' ...
movement. Van Sant's early career was devoted to directing television commercials in the
Pacific Northwest The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is a geographic region in western bounded by its coastal waters of the to the west and, loosely, by the to the east. Though no official boundary exists, the most common conception includes the U.S. states of , , ...
. He made his feature-length cinematic directorial debut with '' Mala Noche'' (1985). His second feature, ''
Drugstore Cowboy ''Drugstore Cowboy'' is a 1989 American crime film, crime Drama (film and television), drama film directed by the Americans, American filmmaker Gus Van Sant. Written by Van Sant and Daniel Yost, and based on an autobiographical novel by James Fogl ...
'' (1989), was highly acclaimed, and earned him screenwriting awards from the
Los Angeles Film Critics Association The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) is an American film critic organization founded in 1975. Background Its membership comprises film critics from Los Angeles-based print and electronic media. In December of each year, the organizat ...
and
New York Film Critics Circle The New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) is an American film critic Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art used to simulate experience ...
and the award for Best Director from the
National Society of Film Critics The National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) is an American film critic organization. The organization is known for its highbrow tastes, and its annual awards are one of the most prestigious film critics awards in the United States. In January 2014, ...
. His next film, ''
My Own Private Idaho ''My Own Private Idaho'' is a 1991 American independent film, independent adventure film, adventure drama (film and television), drama film written and directed by Gus Van Sant, loosely based on Shakespeare's ''Henry IV, Part 1'', ''Henry IV, Par ...
'' (1991), was similarly praised, as was the
black comedy Black comedy, also known as black humor, dark humor, dark comedy, morbid humor, or gallows humor, is a style of comedy Comedy (from the el, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction that consists of discourses or works inten ...
''
To Die For ''To Die For'' is a 1995 film directed by Gus Van Sant, and written by Buck Henry based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard, which in turn was inspired by the story of Pamela Smart. It stars Nicole Kidman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Matt Di ...
'' (1995), the drama ''
Good Will Hunting ''Good Will Hunting'' is a 1997 American drama film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, and Stellan Skarsgård. Written by Affleck and Damon, the film follows 20-year-old South Boston jani ...
'' (1997), and the biographical film ''
Milk Milk is a nutrient A nutrient is a substance Substance may refer to: * Substance (Jainism), a term in Jain ontology to denote the base or owner of attributes * Chemical substance, a material with a definite chemical composition * Matter, any ...
'' (2008); for the latter two, Van Sant was nominated for the
Academy Award for Best Director The Academy Award for Best Director (officially known as the Academy Award of Merit for Directing) is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS, ofte ...
and both films received
Best PictureThis is a list of categories of awards commonly awarded through organizations that bestow film awards, including those presented by various film, festivals, and people's awards. Best Actor/Best Actress *See Best Actor#Film awards, Best Actress#Fi ...
nominations. In 2003, Van Sant's film about the
Columbine High School massacre The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting and improvised explosive device, attempted bombing that occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, United States. The perpetrators, twelfth grade (s ...
, ''
Elephant Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three living species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A specie ...
'', won the
Palme d'Or The Palme d'Or (; en, Golden Palm) is the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival The Cannes Festival (; french: link=no, Festival de Cannes), until 2003 called the International Film Festival (') and known in English as the Ca ...

Palme d'Or
at the
Cannes Film Festival The Cannes Festival (; french: link=no, Festival de Cannes), until 2003 called the International Film Festival (') and known in English as the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual film festival A film festival is an organized, extended presen ...
. Van Sant also received the festival's Best Director Award that same year, making him one of only two filmmakers—the other being
Joel Coen Joel Coen (born November 29, 1954) and Ethan Coen (born September 21, 1957),State of Minnesota. ''Minnesota Birth Index, 1935–2002''. Minnesota Department of Health. collectively referred to as the Coen Brothers (), are American film director ...
—to win both accolades at the festival in the same year. Though most of Van Sant's other films received favourable reviews, such as ''
Finding Forrester ''Finding Forrester'' is a 2000 American drama film In film and television show, television, drama is a category of narrative fiction (or docudrama, semi-fiction) intended to be more serious than humour, humorous in tone. Drama of this kind i ...
'' (2000) and '' Paranoid Park'' (2007), some of his efforts, such as the art house production '' Last Days'' (2005) and the environmental drama ''
Promised Land The Promised Land ( he, הארץ המובטחת, translit. Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping Letter (alphabet), letters (thus ''wikt:trans-#Prefix, trans-'' + ''wikt:litte ...
'' (2012), have received more mixed reviews from critics, while his
adaptation In , adaptation has three related meanings. Firstly, it is the dynamic evolutionary process that fits s to their environment, enhancing their . Secondly, it is a state reached by the population during that process. Thirdly, it is a or adapti ...
of
Tom Robbins Thomas Eugene Robbins (born July 22, 1932) is an American novelist. His best-selling novels are "seriocomedies" (also known as "comedy-drama"). His novel ''Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (book), Even Cowgirls Get the Blues'' was made into Even Cowg ...

Tom Robbins
's '' Even Cowgirls Get the Blues'' (1993), his 1998 remake of
Alfred Hitchcock Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential and widely studied filmmakers in the history of cinema. Known as the "Master of S ...
's '' Psycho'', and '' The Sea of Trees'' (2015), were critical and commercial failures. In addition to directing, Van Sant has written the screenplays for several of his earlier works, and is the author of a novel, ''Pink''. A book of his photography, ''108 Portraits'', has also been published, and he has released two musical albums. He is gay and lives in Los Feliz, California.


Early life

Van Sant was born and raised in
Louisville, Kentucky Louisville ( , , ) is the largest city A city is a large human settlement In geography, statistics and archaeology, a settlement, locality or populated place is a community in which people live. The complexity of a settlement can ...
, the son of Betty (née Seay) and Gus Green Van Sant Sr; Gus's father was a clothing manufacturer and traveling salesman, who rapidly worked his way into middle class prosperity, holding executive marketing positions that included being president of the White Stag Manufacturing Company's Apparel Operation. As a result of his father's job, the family moved continually during Van Sant's childhood. His paternal family is of partial Dutch origin; the name "Van Sant" is derived from the Dutch name " ''Van Zandt''". The earliest Van Zandt arrived in the
New Netherland New Netherland ( nl, Nieuw Nederland; la, Nova Belgica or ) was a 17th-century colony of the Dutch Republic The United Provinces of the Netherlands, or United Provinces (officially the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands), commonl ...
area in the early 17th century, around what is now New York City. Van Sant is an alumnus of
Darien High School Darien High School is the single State school, public high school serving the town of Darien, Connecticut, in the United States. Background In 2014, Darien High School had the highest SAT scores in the state. In the 2004–2005 school year, Dari ...
in
Darien, Connecticut Darien () is a coastal town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than city, cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world. Or ...
, and The Catlin Gabel School in
Portland, Oregon Portland (, ) is the list of cities in Oregon, largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Oregon, and the county seat, seat of Multnomah County, Oregon, Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacif ...

Portland, Oregon
. One constant in the director's early years was his interest in visual arts (namely, painting and
Super-8 Super 8mm film is a motion picture film formats, film format released in 1965 by Eastman Kodak as an improvement over the older 8 mm film, "Double" or "Regular" 8 mm home movies, home movie format. The film is Real versus nominal value, nominal ...
filmmaking); while still in school he began making semi-autobiographical shorts costing between 30 and 50 dollars. Van Sant's artistic leanings took him to the
Rhode Island School of Design The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD ) is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an a ...
in 1970, where his introduction to various avant-garde directors inspired him to change his major from painting to cinema.


Career


1982–1989: Early career

After spending time in Europe, Van Sant went to Los Angeles in 1976. He secured a job as a production assistant to filmmaker
Ken Shapiro Kenneth Roy Shapiro (June 5, 1942 – November 18, 2017) was an American writer, producer, director and child actor. Most notably, he played the role of the "Kid" on ''The Buick-Berle Show.'' He was a regular on George Scheck's "Star Time" Kids Sho ...
, with whom he developed a few ideas, none of which came to fruition. In 1981, Van Sant made ''Alice in Hollywood'', a film about a naïve young actress who goes to Hollywood and abandons her ideals. It was never released. During this period, Van Sant began to spend time observing the denizens of the more down-and-out sections of
Hollywood Boulevard Hollywood Boulevard is a major east–west street in Los Angeles Los Angeles ( ; xgf, Tovaangar; es, Los Ángeles, , ), commonly referred to by the initialism An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken lang ...
. He became fascinated by the existence of this marginalized section of L.A.'s population, especially in context with the more ordinary, prosperous world that surrounded them. Van Sant would repeatedly focus his work on those existing on society's fringes, making his feature film
directorial debut This is a list of film directorial debuts in chronological order. The films and dates referred to are a director's first commercial cinematic release. Many film makers have directed works which were not commercially released, for example early works ...
'' Mala Noche''. It was made two years after Van Sant went to New York to work in an advertising agency. He saved $20,000 during his tenure there, enabling him to finance the majority of his tale of doomed love between a gay liquor store clerk and a Mexican immigrant. The film, which was taken from Portland street writer Walt Curtis' semi-autobiographical novella, featured some of the director's hallmarks, notably an unfulfilled romanticism, a dry sense of the absurd, and the refusal to treat homosexuality as something deserving of judgment. Unlike many gay filmmakers, Van Sant—who had long been openly gay—declined to use same-sex relationships as fodder for overtly political statements, although such relationships would frequently appear in his films. Shot in black-and-white, the film earned Van Sant almost overnight acclaim on the festival circuit, with the ''Los Angeles Times'' naming it the year's best
independent film An independent film, independent movie, indie film, or indie movie is a feature film A feature film or feature-length film is a narrative film (motion picture or "movie") with a running time long enough to be considered the principal or sole ...
. The film's success attracted Hollywood interest, and Van Sant was briefly courted by
Universal Universal is the adjective for universe. Universal may also refer to: Companies * NBCUniversal, a media and entertainment company ** Universal Animation Studios, an American Animation studio, and a subsidiary of NBCUniversal ** Universal TV, a te ...

Universal
; the courtship ended after Van Sant pitched a series of project ideas (including what would later become ''
Drugstore Cowboy ''Drugstore Cowboy'' is a 1989 American crime film, crime Drama (film and television), drama film directed by the Americans, American filmmaker Gus Van Sant. Written by Van Sant and Daniel Yost, and based on an autobiographical novel by James Fogl ...
'' and ''
My Own Private Idaho ''My Own Private Idaho'' is a 1991 American independent film, independent adventure film, adventure drama (film and television), drama film written and directed by Gus Van Sant, loosely based on Shakespeare's ''Henry IV, Part 1'', ''Henry IV, Par ...
'') that the studio declined to take interest in. Van Sant moved back to
Portland, Oregon Portland (, ) is the list of cities in Oregon, largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Oregon, and the county seat, seat of Multnomah County, Oregon, Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacif ...

Portland, Oregon
, where he set up house and began giving life to the ideas rejected by Universal. He directed ''Drugstore Cowboy'' about four drug addicts robbing pharmacies to support their habit. The film met with great critical success and revived the career of
Matt Dillon Matthew Raymond Dillon (born February 18, 1964) is an American actor and film director. He made his feature film debut in ''Over the Edge (film), Over the Edge'' (1979) and established himself as a teen idol by starring in the films ''My Bodygu ...
.


1990–1995: Indie and arthouse success

''Drugstore Cowboys exploration of the lives of those living on society's outer fringes, as well as its
Portland Portland most commonly refers to: * Portland, Oregon, the largest city in the state of Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States * Portland, Maine, the largest city in the state of Maine, in the New England region of the northeas ...

Portland
setting, were mirrored in Van Sant's next effort, the similarly acclaimed ''
My Own Private Idaho ''My Own Private Idaho'' is a 1991 American independent film, independent adventure film, adventure drama (film and television), drama film written and directed by Gus Van Sant, loosely based on Shakespeare's ''Henry IV, Part 1'', ''Henry IV, Par ...
'' (1991). Only with the success of ''Cowboy'' was Van Sant now given license to make ''Idaho'' (a film he had originally pitched that was knocked back several times because the studios deemed the script 'too risky'.
New Line Cinema New Line Productions, Inc., doing business as A trade name, trading name, or business name is a pseudonym A pseudonym () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) or alias () is a fictitious name that a person or group assumes for a parti ...

New Line Cinema
now gave Van Sant the green light, and he went on a mission to get the ''Idaho'' script into the hands of
River Phoenix River Jude Phoenix (Given name, né Bottom; August 23, 1970 – October 31, 1993) was an American actor, musician, and activist. Phoenix grew up in an Wikt:itinerant, itinerant family, as older brother of Rain Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix, Liberty ...

River Phoenix
and
Keanu Reeves Keanu Charles Reeves ( ; born September 2, 1964) is a Canadian actor. Born in Beirut Beirut ( ; ar, بيروت, ) is the Capital city, capital and largest city of Lebanon. , Greater Beirut has a population of 2.2 million, which ...
his preferred choice for the two young leads. After months of struggle with agents and managers over the content of the script, Van Sant finally secured Phoenix and Reeves, who played the roles of Mike Waters and Scott Favor, respectively. Centering around the dealings of two male hustlers (played by Phoenix and Reeves), the film was a compelling examination of unrequited love, alienation, and the concept of family (a concept Van Sant repeatedly explores in his films). The film won him an
Independent Spirit Award The Independent Spirit Awards (abbreviated "Spirit Awards" and originally known as the FINDIE or Friends of Independents Awards), founded in 1984, are awards dedicated to independent filmmakers. Winners were typically presented with acrylic gla ...
for his screenplay (he had won the same award for his ''
Drugstore Cowboy ''Drugstore Cowboy'' is a 1989 American crime film, crime Drama (film and television), drama film directed by the Americans, American filmmaker Gus Van Sant. Written by Van Sant and Daniel Yost, and based on an autobiographical novel by James Fogl ...
'' screenplay), as well as greater prestige. The film also gained River Phoenix best actor honors at the
Venice Film Festival The Venice Film Festival or Venice International Film Festival ( it, Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia, "International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art of the Venice Biennale") is the world's oldest film fes ...
among others. In addition, it helped Reeves—previously best known for his work in the '' Bill and Ted'' movies—to get the critical respect that had previously eluded him. Van Sant's next film, a 1993
adaptation In , adaptation has three related meanings. Firstly, it is the dynamic evolutionary process that fits s to their environment, enhancing their . Secondly, it is a state reached by the population during that process. Thirdly, it is a or adapti ...
of
Tom Robbins Thomas Eugene Robbins (born July 22, 1932) is an American novelist. His best-selling novels are "seriocomedies" (also known as "comedy-drama"). His novel ''Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (book), Even Cowgirls Get the Blues'' was made into Even Cowg ...

Tom Robbins
' '' Even Cowgirls Get the Blues'', was an excessive flop, both commercially and critically. Featuring an unusually large budget (for Van Sant, at least) of $8.5 million and a large, eclectic cast including
Uma Thurman Parvati ( sa, पार्वती, ), Uma ( sa, उमा, ) or Gauri ( sa, गौरी, ) is the Hindu Hindus (; ) are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of Hinduism.Jeffe ...
,
John Hurt Sir John Vincent Hurt (22 January 1940 – 25 January 2017) was an English actor whose career spanned over five decades. He came to prominence for his role as Richard Rich, 1st Baron Rich, Richard Rich in the film ''A Man for All Seasons (1966 ...

John Hurt
, Keanu Reeves and a newcomer in the form of River Phoenix's younger sister
Rain Rain is liquid water in the form of droplet Rain water flux from a canopy. Among the forces that govern drop formation: cohesion, Van der Waals force">Cohesion_(chemistry).html" ;"title="surface tension, Cohesion (chemistry)">cohesion, ...
(at Phoenix's suggestion), the film was worked and then reworked, but the finished product nonetheless resulted in something approaching a significant disaster. Van Sant's 1995 film ''
To Die For ''To Die For'' is a 1995 film directed by Gus Van Sant, and written by Buck Henry based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Maynard, which in turn was inspired by the story of Pamela Smart. It stars Nicole Kidman, Joaquin Phoenix, and Matt Di ...
'' helped to restore his luster. An adaptation of
Joyce Maynard Daphne Joyce Maynard (born November 5, 1953) is an American novelist and journalist. She began her career in journalism in the 1970s, writing for several publications, most notably ''Seventeen (American magazine), Seventeen'' magazine and ''The N ...
's novel, the
black comedy Black comedy, also known as black humor, dark humor, dark comedy, morbid humor, or gallows humor, is a style of comedy Comedy (from the el, κωμῳδία, ''kōmōdía'') is a genre of fiction that consists of discourses or works inten ...
starred
Nicole Kidman Nicole Mary Kidman (born 20 June 1967) is an American-born Australian actress and producer. She is the recipient of numerous accolades, including an Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for arti ...

Nicole Kidman
as a murderously ambitious weather girl; it also stars
Matt Dillon Matthew Raymond Dillon (born February 18, 1964) is an American actor and film director. He made his feature film debut in ''Over the Edge (film), Over the Edge'' (1979) and established himself as a teen idol by starring in the films ''My Bodygu ...
as her hapless husband and, the third Phoenix sibling in as many projects,
Joaquin Phoenix Joaquin Rafael Phoenix (; né Bottom; born October 28, 1974) is an American actor, producer, and animal rights activist. Known for playing dark and unconventional characters in independent film An independent film, independent movie, indie fi ...
, as her equally hapless lover (River had died from a drug overdose a year and half earlier). It was Van Sant's first effort for a major studio (
Columbia Columbia may refer to: * Columbia (personification), the historical female national personification of the United States, and a poetic name for the Americas Places North America Natural features * Columbia Plateau, a geologic and geographic regio ...
), and its success paved the way for further projects of the director's choosing. The same year, he served as executive producer for
Larry Clark Lawrence Donald Clark (born January 19, 1943) is an American film director, photographer, writer and film producer who is best known for his controversial teen film ''Kids (film), Kids'' (1995) and his photography book ''Tulsa (book), Tulsa'' (1 ...
's ''
Kids Kid, Kids, KIDS, and K.I.D.S. may refer to: Common meanings * Colloquial term for an infant, toddler A toddler is a child approximately 12 to 36 months old, though definitions vary. The toddler years are a time of great cognitive, e ...
''; it was a fitting assignment, due to both the film's subject matter and the fact that Clark's photographs of junkies had served as reference points for Van Sant's ''Drugstore Cowboy''.


1997–2003: Mainstream breakout

In 1997, Van Sant gained mainstream recognition and critical acclaim thanks to ''
Good Will Hunting ''Good Will Hunting'' is a 1997 American drama film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, and Stellan Skarsgård. Written by Affleck and Damon, the film follows 20-year-old South Boston jani ...
'', which starred and was written by
Matt Damon Matthew Paige Damon (; born October 8, 1970) is an American actor, producer, and screenwriter. Ranked among ''Forbes ''Forbes'' () is an American business magazine owned by Integrated Whale Media Investments and the Forbes family T ...
and
Ben Affleck Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt (born August 15, 1972) is an American actor, film director, producer, screenwriter, and philanthropist. His accolades The accolade (also known as dubbing or adoubement) ( la, benedictio militis) was the centr ...

Ben Affleck
. The film—about a troubled, blue-collar mathematical genius—was a huge critical and commercial success. It was nominated for nine
Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry The film industry or motion picture industry comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking F ...
s, including Best Director for Van Sant. It also won two, including Best Screenplay for Damon and Affleck, and Best Supporting Actor Oscar for
Robin Williams Robin McLaurin Williams (July 21, 1951August 11, 2014) was an American actor and comedian. Known for his improvisation Improvisation is the activity of making or doing something not planned beforehand, using whatever can be found. Impro ...

Robin Williams
, who, in his acceptance speech, referred to Van Sant as "being so subtle you're almost subliminal." Van Sant, Damon and Affleck parodied themselves and the film's success in
Kevin Smith Kevin Patrick Smith (born August 2, 1970) is an American filmmaker, actor, comedian, comic book writer, author, and podcaster. He came to prominence with the low-budget A low-budget film or low-budget movie is a motion picture shot with litt ...

Kevin Smith
's''
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back ''Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back'' is a 2001 American satirical Satire is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed ove ...
.'' The success of ''Good Will Hunting'' afforded Van Sant the opportunity to
remake A remake is a film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art The visual arts are art forms such as painting Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other m ...
the
Alfred Hitchcock Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is one of the most influential and widely studied filmmakers in the history of cinema. Known as the "Master of S ...
classic '' Psycho''. As opposed to reinterpreting the 1960 film, Van Sant opted to recreate the film shot-for-shot, in color, with a cast of young Hollywood A-listers. His decision was met with equal parts curiosity, skepticism, and derision from industry insiders and outsiders alike, and the finished result met with a similar reception. It starred
Anne Heche Anne Celeste Heche ( ; born May 25, 1969) is an American actress, director, and screenwriter. She came to recognition portraying Vicky Hudson Vicky Hudson is a fictional character that appeared on the NBC daytime soap opera ''Another World (T ...
,
Vince Vaughn Vincent Anthony Vaughn (born March 28, 1970) is an American actor, comedian, and filmmaker. Vaughn began acting in the late 1980s, appearing in minor television roles before attaining wider recognition with the 1996 comedy-drama -drama, or d ...

Vince Vaughn
and
Julianne Moore Julie Anne Smith (born December 3, 1960), known professionally as Julianne Moore, is an American actress and author. Prolific in film since the early 1990s, she is especially known for her portrayals of emotionally troubled women in both indepe ...
, and met with a negative critical reception and did poorly at the box office. In 2000, Van Sant directed ''
Finding Forrester ''Finding Forrester'' is a 2000 American drama film In film and television show, television, drama is a category of narrative fiction (or docudrama, semi-fiction) intended to be more serious than humour, humorous in tone. Drama of this kind i ...
'', about a high-school student ( Rob Brown) from
the Bronx The Bronx () is a borough of New York City New York City is composed of five boroughs: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. Each borough is coextensive with a respective Administrative divisions of New York (state)#Count ...
unlikely becoming a friend of a crusty, reclusive author (
Sean Connery Sir Sean Connery (born Thomas Connery; 25 August 1930 – 31 October 2020) was a Scottish actor. He was the first actor to Portrayal of James Bond in film, portray fictional British secret agent James Bond (literary character), James Bond on f ...

Sean Connery
). Critical response was generally positive and became a box office success. In addition to directing, he devoted considerable energy to releasing two albums and publishing a novel, ''
Pink Pink is the color of a namesake flower that is a pale tint of red. It was first used as a color name in the late 17th century. According to surveys in Europe and the United States, pink is the color most often associated with charm, politeness, ...
'', which was a thinly veiled exploration of his grief over River Phoenix's death.


2003–present: Return to arthouse cinema

Van Sant traveled to the deserts of
Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America South America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...

Argentina
,
Utah Utah ( , ) is a U.S. state, state in the Mountain states, Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. Utah is a landlocked U.S. state bordered to its east by Colorado, to its northeast by Wyoming, to its north by Idaho, to its so ...

Utah
, and
Death Valley Death Valley is a desert valley in Eastern California, in the northern Mojave Desert, bordering the Great Basin Desert. It is one of the hottest places on Earth, along with deserts in the Middle East and the Sahara. Death Valley's Badwater Ba ...

Death Valley
for the production of 2002's ''
Gerry Gerry is both a surname and a masculine or feminine given name. As a given name, it is often a short form (hypocorism A hypocorism ( or ; from Ancient Greek: (), from (), 'to call by pet names') or pet name is a name used to show affection f ...
'', a loosely devised, largely improvised feature in which stars Matt Damon and
Casey Affleck Caleb Casey McGuire Affleck-Boldt (born August 12, 1975) is an American actor and director. He began his career as a child actor, appearing in the PBS The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is an American public broadcaster and televis ...

Casey Affleck
—both playing characters named Gerry—wander through the desert, discussing '' Wheel of Fortune'', video games, and nothing in particular. The film premiered at the
Sundance Film Festival The Sundance Film Festival (formerly Utah/US Film Festival, then US Film and Video Festival) is an annual film festival A film festival is an organized, extended presentation of film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or m ...

Sundance Film Festival
. It took ''Gerry'' over a year to make it to theaters, in which time Van Sant began production on his next film, ''
Elephant Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three living species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A specie ...
''. Approached by
HBO Home Box Office (HBO) is an American pay television Pay television also known as subscription television, premium television or, when referring to an individual service, a premium channel, refers to subscription-based television Tel ...
and producer
Diane Keaton Diane Hall Keaton (born Diane Hall; January 5, 1946) is an American actress. Known for her idiosyncratic personality and fashion style, she has received various accolades throughout her career, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film ...

Diane Keaton
to craft a fictional film based on the 1999
Columbine High School massacre The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting and improvised explosive device, attempted bombing that occurred on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, United States. The perpetrators, twelfth grade (s ...
, the director chose to shoot in his hometown of Portland, employing dozens of untrained, teen actors. As well as melding improvisational long takes like those in ''Gerry'' with
Harris Savides Harris Savides (Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 mill ...
' fluid camerawork, the film was also influenced by Alan Clarke's 1989 film of the same name (see ''
Elephant Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three living species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A specie ...
''). The finished film provoked strong reactions from audiences at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. At the
Cannes Cannes (; , ; oc, Canas) is a city located on the French Riviera The French Riviera (known in French French (french: français(e), link=no) may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to France France (), officially the French ...

Cannes
festival, the jury awarded ''Elephant'' with their top prize, the
Palme d'Or The Palme d'Or (; en, Golden Palm) is the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival The Cannes Festival (; french: link=no, Festival de Cannes), until 2003 called the International Film Festival (') and known in English as the Ca ...

Palme d'Or
, and Van Sant with his first Best Director statue from the festival. The success of ''Elephant'' led Van Sant to show the U.S. premiere of ''Elephant'' as a fundraiser for Outside In, an organization working to help youth living on the streets of
Portland, Oregon Portland (, ) is the list of cities in Oregon, largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Oregon, and the county seat, seat of Multnomah County, Oregon, Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacif ...

Portland, Oregon
. In 2005, Van Sant released '' Last Days'', the final component of what he refers to as his "Death Trilogy", (the other parts being ''Gerry'' and ''Elephant''). It is a fictionalized account of what happened to Nirvana (band), Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in the days leading up to his death. In 2006, Van Sant began work on '' Paranoid Park'' based on the book by Blake Nelson, about a skateboarding teenager who accidentally causes someone's death. The film was released in Europe in February 2008. He also directed the "Le Marais" segment of the omnibus film ''Paris, je t'aime''. Released in 2008, Van Sant's ''
Milk Milk is a nutrient A nutrient is a substance Substance may refer to: * Substance (Jainism), a term in Jain ontology to denote the base or owner of attributes * Chemical substance, a material with a definite chemical composition * Matter, any ...
'' is a biopic of openly gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978. The film received eight Academy Award, Oscar nominations at the 81st Academy Awards, including
Best PictureThis is a list of categories of awards commonly awarded through organizations that bestow film awards, including those presented by various film, festivals, and people's awards. Best Actor/Best Actress *See Best Actor#Film awards, Best Actress#Fi ...
, winning two for Academy Award for Best Actor, Best Actor in a Leading Role for Sean Penn, who starred as Milk, and Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay for writer Dustin Lance Black. Van Sant was nominated for Academy Award for Best Director, Best Director. Van Sant later stated that his experience with Sean Penn on the film was "amazing". His 2011 project ''Restless (2011 film), Restless'' was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and starred Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper, the son of actor Dennis Hopper. Van Sant's film, ''
Promised Land The Promised Land ( he, הארץ המובטחת, translit. Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script to another that involves swapping Letter (alphabet), letters (thus ''wikt:trans-#Prefix, trans-'' + ''wikt:litte ...
'', was released on December 28, 2012. The film stars Frances McDormand, Matt Damon, and John Krasinski—the latter two co-wrote the screenplay based on a story by Dave Eggers. Filmed in April 2012, the production company, Focus Features, selected the release date so that the film is eligible to qualify for awards consideration. Following ''Promised Land'', Van Sant directed a film titled ''Sea of Trees (film), Sea of Trees'', which starred Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe. The film tells the story of a man who travels to the infamous Aokigahara suicide forest in Japan to kill himself, only to encounter another man wishing to kill himself as well, with whom he then embarks on a "spiritual journey". The film was selected to compete for the
Palme d'Or The Palme d'Or (; en, Golden Palm) is the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival The Cannes Festival (; french: link=no, Festival de Cannes), until 2003 called the International Film Festival (') and known in English as the Ca ...

Palme d'Or
at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival but was met with harsh critical reception at the Cannes, being booed and laughed at. In December 2016, it was announced Van Sant would direct ''Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot'', a biopic about cartoonist John Callahan (cartoonist), John Callahan, starring
Joaquin Phoenix Joaquin Rafael Phoenix (; né Bottom; born October 28, 1974) is an American actor, producer, and animal rights activist. Known for playing dark and unconventional characters in independent film An independent film, independent movie, indie fi ...
, Rooney Mara, Jonah Hill, Jack Black and Mark Webber (actor), Mark Webber. Principal photography began in March 2017.


Other work

Van Sant released two musical albums: ''Gus Van Sant'' and ''18 Songs About Golf''. Van Sant played himself in episodes of the HBO series ''Entourage (U.S. TV series), Entourage'' and the IFC series ''Portlandia (TV series), Portlandia''. Van Sant directed the pilot for the Starz television program ''Boss (TV series), Boss'', starring Kelsey Grammer. Van Sant went onto The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast to discuss filmmaking, writing, film history and their collaborations that never got made (''The Golden Suicides'') and the one that did (''The Canyons (film), The Canyons'').


Archive

The moving image collection of Gus Van Sant is held at the Academy Film Archive. The archive has preserved many of Van Sant's short films, including ''The Happy Organ'', ''Ken Death Gets Out of Jail'', ''Five Ways to Kill Yourself'', and others.


Awards and nominations

* Career Achievement ** Provincetown International Film Festival Filmmaker on the Edge Award (2002) * ''
Drugstore Cowboy ''Drugstore Cowboy'' is a 1989 American crime film, crime Drama (film and television), drama film directed by the Americans, American filmmaker Gus Van Sant. Written by Van Sant and Daniel Yost, and based on an autobiographical novel by James Fogl ...
'' (1989) **
Los Angeles Film Critics Association The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) is an American film critic organization founded in 1975. Background Its membership comprises film critics from Los Angeles-based print and electronic media. In December of each year, the organizat ...
Award for Best Screenplay (with Daniel Yost) ** Independent Spirit Awards, Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay (with Daniel Yost) **
National Society of Film Critics The National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) is an American film critic organization. The organization is known for its highbrow tastes, and its annual awards are one of the most prestigious film critics awards in the United States. In January 2014, ...
Award for Best Director ** National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay (with Daniel Yost) **
New York Film Critics Circle The New York Film Critics Circle (NYFCC) is an American film critic Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of visual art used to simulate experience ...
Award for Best Screenplay (with Daniel Yost) * ''
My Own Private Idaho ''My Own Private Idaho'' is a 1991 American independent film, independent adventure film, adventure drama (film and television), drama film written and directed by Gus Van Sant, loosely based on Shakespeare's ''Henry IV, Part 1'', ''Henry IV, Par ...
'' (1991) **
Venice Film Festival The Venice Film Festival or Venice International Film Festival ( it, Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia, "International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art of the Venice Biennale") is the world's oldest film fes ...
Official Selection ** Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto Festival of Festivals FIPRESCI Prize * ''
Good Will Hunting ''Good Will Hunting'' is a 1997 American drama film directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, and Stellan Skarsgård. Written by Affleck and Damon, the film follows 20-year-old South Boston jani ...
'' (1997) ** 48th Berlin International Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival Official Selection ** Academy Awards, Academy Award nomination for Best Director [film won for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay] ** Directors Guild of America (DGA) nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures ** Satellite Award nomination for Best Director * ''
Finding Forrester ''Finding Forrester'' is a 2000 American drama film In film and television show, television, drama is a category of narrative fiction (or docudrama, semi-fiction) intended to be more serious than humour, humorous in tone. Drama of this kind i ...
'' (2000) ** Berlin Film Festival Prize of the Guild of German Art House Cinemas * ''
Elephant Elephants are the largest existing land animals. Three living species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A specie ...
'' (2003) **
Cannes Film Festival The Cannes Festival (; french: link=no, Festival de Cannes), until 2003 called the International Film Festival (') and known in English as the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual film festival A film festival is an organized, extended presen ...
Palme d'Or The Palme d'Or (; en, Golden Palm) is the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival The Cannes Festival (; french: link=no, Festival de Cannes), until 2003 called the International Film Festival (') and known in English as the Ca ...

Palme d'Or
** Cannes Film Festival Best Director Award (Cannes Film Festival), Prix de la mise en scène * '' Last Days'' (2005) ** 2005 Cannes Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival Official Selection * '' Paranoid Park'' (2007) ** Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director ** 2007 Cannes Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival "Prix du 60ème anniversaire" (also acknowledging his body of works) * ''
Milk Milk is a nutrient A nutrient is a substance Substance may refer to: * Substance (Jainism), a term in Jain ontology to denote the base or owner of attributes * Chemical substance, a material with a definite chemical composition * Matter, any ...
'' (2008) **
Academy Award The Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry The film industry or motion picture industry comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking F ...
nomination for Best Director [film won Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Original Screenplay] ** Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director ** Broadcast Film Critics Association Award nomination for Best Director ** The Cinema for Peace Award for the Most Valuable Film of the Year **Directors Guild of America (DGA) nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures **Satellite Award nomination for Best Director


Filmography


Feature films


Short films

* ''Fun with a Bloodroot'' (1967) 2 min 20 sec, 8 mm film, 8 mm Color motion picture film, color * ''The Happy Organ'' (1971) 20 min, 16 mm film, 16 mm Black-and-white, black and white * ''Little Johnny'' (1972) 40 sec, 16 mm black and white * ''1/2 of a Telephone Conversation'' (1973) 2 min, 16 mm black and white * ''Late Morning Start'' (1975) 28 min, 16 mm color * ''The Discipline of DE'' (1978) 9 min, 16 mm black and white, adaptation of William S. Burroughs' short story, narrated by
Ken Shapiro Kenneth Roy Shapiro (June 5, 1942 – November 18, 2017) was an American writer, producer, director and child actor. Most notably, he played the role of the "Kid" on ''The Buick-Berle Show.'' He was a regular on George Scheck's "Star Time" Kids Sho ...
* ''Alice in Hollywood'' (1981) 45 min, 16 mm color * ''My Friend'' (1982) 3 min, 16 mm black and white * ''Where'd She Go?'' (1983) 3 min, 16 mm color * ''Nightmare Typhoon'' (1984) 9 min, 16 mm black and white * ''My New Friend'' (1984) 3 min, 16 mm color * ''Ken Death Gets Out of Jail'' (1985) 3 min, 16 mm black and white * ''Five Ways to Kill Yourself'' (1986) 3 min, 16 mm black and white * ''Thanksgiving Prayer'' (1991) 2 min, 35 mm color, written by and starring William S. Burroughs * ''Four Boys in a Volvo'' (1996) 4min, color * ''Paris, je t'aime'' (2006) segment "Le Marais" * ''To Each His Own Cinema'' (2007) segment "First Kiss" (3 min) * ''8 (2008 film), 8'' (2008) segment "Mansion on the Hill"


Music videos

* "Thanksgiving Prayer" by William Burroughs (1990) * "Fame (David Bowie song)#"Fame '90", Fame '90" by David Bowie (1990) * "I'm Seventeen" by Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers (1991) * "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers (1992) * "Bang Bang Bang" by Tracy Chapman (1992) * "Runaway (Deee-Lite song), Runaway" by Deee-Lite (1992) * "The Last Song (Elton John song), The Last Song" by Elton John (1992) * "San Francisco Days" by Chris Isaak (1993) * "Just Keep Me Moving" by k.d. lang (1993) * "Creep (Stone Temple Pilots song), Creep" (alternative version) by Stone Temple Pilots (1993) * "Understanding" by Candlebox (1995) * "Ballad of the Skeletons" by Allen Ginsberg with Paul McCartney, Philip Glass, Lenny Kaye et al. (1996) * "Weird (Hanson song), Weird" by Hanson (band), Hanson (1998) * "Who Did You Think I Was" (turntable version) by John Mayer Trio (2005) * "Desecration Smile" by Red Hot Chili Peppers (2007) Note that Chris Isaak's ''Solitary Man'' (1993) was ''not'' directed by Van Sant but by
Larry Clark Lawrence Donald Clark (born January 19, 1943) is an American film director, photographer, writer and film producer who is best known for his controversial teen film ''Kids (film), Kids'' (1995) and his photography book ''Tulsa (book), Tulsa'' (1 ...
.
* "Ain't it Funny" by Danny Brown (2016)


Recordings

* ''The Elvis of Letters'' (1985) with William S. Burroughs * ''Millions of Images'' (1990) with William S. Burroughs


Executive producer

* ''
Kids Kid, Kids, KIDS, and K.I.D.S. may refer to: Common meanings * Colloquial term for an infant, toddler A toddler is a child approximately 12 to 36 months old, though definitions vary. The toddler years are a time of great cognitive, e ...
'' (1995) * ''Speedway Junky'' (1999) * ''Tarnation (2003 film), Tarnation'' (2003) * ''Wild Tigers I Have Known'' (2006) * ''Lightfield's Home Videos'' (2006) * ''Howl (2010 film), Howl'' (2010) * ''Virginia (2010 film), Virginia'' (2010) * ''Act Up!'' (2012) * ''Laurence Anyways'' (2012) * ''Revolution (2012 film), Revolution'' (2013) * ''I Am Michael'' (2015) * ''Age Out'' (2018)


Actor

* ''
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back ''Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back'' is a 2001 American satirical Satire is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed ove ...
'' (2001) as Himself * ''Entourage (U.S. TV series), Entourage''- Season 5, Episode 12: ''Return to Queens Blvd.'' (2008) as Himself * ''The Canyons (film), The Canyons'' (2013) as Dr. Campbell


Television

* ''The Devil You Know'' (2015) – Director, executive producer * ''When We Rise'' (2017), an American miniseries written by Dustin Lance Black – Director of first two-hour part Boss Season1 Ep 1 Director


See also

* List of LGBT people from Portland, Oregon * List of people from the Louisville metropolitan area * List of Rhode Island School of Design people


References


Further reading

*


External links

* * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Van Sant, Gus 1952 births Living people American people of Dutch descent Artists from Oregon Censorship in the arts Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Director winners Directors of Palme d'Or winners Gay artists American gay writers German-language film directors LGBT screenwriters Writers from Louisville, Kentucky Rhode Island School of Design alumni Photographers from Oregon Film directors from Oregon LGBT people from Oregon LGBT people from Kentucky English-language film directors Film directors from Kentucky Catlin Gabel School alumni Filmmakers from Portland, Oregon Darien High School alumni LGBT film directors People from Los Feliz, Los Angeles