Gus Van Sant was born in Louisville, Kentucky
on July 24, 1953. Due to his father's job as a traveling salesman
, the family moved continuously during Van Sant's childhood. At an early age he was interested in painting and Super-8
filmmaking; while still in school he began making semi-autobiographical shorts. Van went to the Rhode Island
School of Design in 1970, where one of his classmates was David Byrne
. Here, Van Sant learned about avant-garde directors such as Stan Brakhage and Andy Warhol
; this inspired him to change his major from painting to cinema
Van Sant moved to Los Angeles in 1976. In 1981 he created "Alice in Hollywood," a film about a naive actress who goes to Hollywood and abandons her ideals. It was never released. During this time, Van Sant became very interested in the varied types of living on Hollywood Boulevard, which offered visions of the down-and-out to the rich and prosperous. Van Sant would return to these images very often in his future films. The first of these would be "Mala Noche" in 1985, which was the story of a doomed relationship between a gay store clerk and a Mexican immigrant.
Van Sant became disenchanted with the Hollywood ideals, and after releasing "Mala Noche" he moved to Portland, Oregon, where he began to work on ideas previously rejected by Universal. The director eventually made "Drugstore Cowboy," in 1989, a film about four drug addicts who rob pharmacies to support their habit. The film gained Van Sant much positive attention from critics.
Van Sant followed this film with "My Own Private Idaho" in 1991, starring River Pheonix and Keanu Reeves, who played two male hustlers. Van Sant won an Independent Spirit Awards for his screenplay as well as more admirers. Van Sant's next work was the 1994 adaptation of Tom Robbins' "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues," which was a terrific flop. (Definitely read the book, but don't even bother with this movie - even though it does star Uma Thurman.)
Fortunately his next project, "To Die For," (one of my faves) helped to restore Van Sant's credibility. In 1997 Van Sant directed "Good Will Hunting," perhaps his greatest success to date. This was followed by his attention-to-detail remake of Hitchcock's "Psycho," which I myself found rather pointless and not up-to-par with his previous excellence in cinema. His latest major work was "Finding Forrester" in 2000. You can also see him in a bit role as himself in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back."
Van Sant is also openly gay.
Movies made by Van Sant since 2000 include:
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