Three things to know about… My own private Idaho

Place au Cinéma, presented by Dominique Besnehard on France 5, this evening celebrates the 30th anniversary of Gus van Sant’s film

A long-standing project

My own private Idaho features two drug addict friends from Portland forced into prostitution to survive. Gus van Sant started writing this story in the 1970s, long before he started directing. But reading by City of the Night, the first novel by John Rechy published in 1963 on a similar subject, pushes him to give up following his idea. Indeed, he finds his screenplay far below the power of this work and therefore no longer sees the point of bringing it to the screen. But the years will pass and My own private Idaho will always stay in the back of his mind. And in 1985, after signing his first feature film Bad night, he gets back to work more seriously. Except that despite its low cost (less than $ 500,000), Gus van Sant cannot find the funding. The world of prostitution is frightening and the dreaminess that he wishes to instill in it is not understood. So, once again, the filmmaker must give up and write in stride Drugstore cowboy for which he finds funding there quite quickly. And this film will be a game changer. He imposes Gus van Sant as the rising value of American indie cine, the one we are going to tear off from then on. And he then takes the opportunity to resubmit his My own private Idaho which, this time, will be able to see the light of day

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Shakespeare revisited

At the start of this adventure, there is not one but several scenarios that Gus van Sant develops in parallel. The story of Mike, a destitute young homosexual suffering from narcolepsy in search of his mother who abandoned him when he was younger. A character inspired by a street kid he had met. And that of Scott, the son of the mayor of Portland, whom he hates because he seeks to impose a clear future on him. A character directly inspired by … Prince Hal of the Henry IV written by William Shakespeare at the end of the 16th century. And, over time and twists and turns (he even spent time filming with Portland street kids), inspired by the work of Orson Welles sr Falstaff (also protagonist ofHenry IV and Merry Wives of Windsor from the same Shakespeare), Gus van Sant will eventually combine the two stories into one and give his film the title My own private Idaho, in a nod to Private Idaho, a song by the group B 52’s that he discovered while visiting Idaho for the first time in the 1980s.

Keanu Reeves’ decisive contribution

To camp his two main characters, Gus van Sant really only had two actors in mind: Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix. The first one who starts to gain momentum (after having chained Dangerous relationships, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Spitting image of a model family and Aunt Julia and the scribbler, he is about to shoot Point break) gives it its consent from the start. But the agent of the second refuses to pass the project to him. So Van Sant has the idea of ​​going to have it carried by hand. And not by just anyone: he charges Keanu Reeves to do it. And, a few days before Christmas, he will ride his motorcycle and undertake a long trip from Canada to Florida to reach his home River Phoenix with whom he has just toured. I love you to kill you by Lawrence Kasdan. And he doesn’t make the trip for nothing! River Phoenix reads the script without waiting and accepts the proposal … but for the role planned for Keanu Reeves who, with Gus van Sant, will succeed in convincing him to play Mike. A character and a composition that earned him an interpretation prize at the 1991 Venice Film Festival.

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