Gus Van SantMulti-Disciplinary Independent Film Director By Adrienne McIlvaine
A uniquely challenging and thought-provoking American director.
Defiant and contemplative, the cinema of director Gus Van Sant is bound together by the alienated, misunderstood characters of his quietly gritty films. Much of his early work focused on the confused lives of desperate young men; Matt Dillon's turn in Drugstore Cowboy as a junkie who develops a conscience is both heartbreaking and hopeful, while the late River Phoenix bravely flounders in My Own Private Idaho's murky waters of unrequited gay love. After filming the disastrous adaptation of the counterculture novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Van Sant rebounded with the ruthless black comedy To Die For and leapt from the art-house underground to mainstream Hollywood with Good Will Hunting, propelled by Matt Damon's revelatory performance as a troubled math prodigy who hides behind a wall of arrogance and contempt. With his well-intentioned, but sorely misguided, Psycho remake behind him, Van Sant released his so-called "Death Trilogy"—Gerry, Elephant, and Last Days—which confronted and explored the rock-bottom lives of a group of lost souls. The openly gay Van Sant, who has also dabbled in music and fiction, earned his second Oscar nomination for the highly praised Milk, about San Francisco gay rights activist-turned-politician Harvey Milk, proving that his indie impulses and Hollywood aspirations can exist side by side.