The acclaimed film-maker discusses brand-new movie Dont Worry, He Wont Get Far on Foot and how he ended up in a hip-hop video

John Callahan, the quadriplegic cartoonist and subject of the new cinema Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, fits right in amongst the free thinkers scattering the filmography of head Gus Van Sant. In a career spanning three decades, Van Sant has systematically tended towards those insurgents and dreamers who go against the grain of mainstream society. That unorthodox fleck can work to their benefit, as with the porter genius of the populist hit Good Will Hunting. Sometimes, it’s to their harm, as with the free-living drug addict of Van Sant’s early arthouse awarenes Drugstore Cowboy. Most regularly, though, it’s a combination of the two. As considered to be in his biopic medications for Kurt Cobain and Harvey Milk, Van Sant’s got a occasion for martyr, for those working able to transmute the agony of their mere existence into great and meaningful projects.

All of which has brought him back to Callahan, and to the famed Phoenix acting dynasty. Van Sant has wrangled for years with the idea of a film about Callahan’s extraordinary life- a gondola gate-crash left him without help of his legs or fine machine skills in his arms, but didn’t stop him from embracing a pen between his hands and summarizing his hilariously pitch-dark, darkly amusing jokes. The campaign was initially imagined as a collaboration with Robin Williams, and rewritten several times as matters of scheduling or financing precluded a start to make. Williams’ death in 2014 have been able to permanently shuttered Don’t Worry, but Van Sant detected an appropriate permutation in a past collaborator.

” I started from scratch again ,” Van Sant says during a curiously brusque interrogation, maybe due to a shaky phone connection.” The other screenplays from 1997 and 2002 were written for Robin, and this time around, it was my first time writing for John Callahan, writing for the book. When Joaquin got involved, I started writing with the idea that he would play it. I still knew he’d have his own spin on it, though. So I wasn’t so much writing it for Joaquin as I was imagining it with him in sentiment .”

A virtuosic performer who could not maybe care less about prosecuting movie stardom, Joaquin Phoenix reverberates a bit like one of Van Sant’s inventions. The duo first linked up in 1995 for the black comical verite-style violation yarn To Die For, in which a then 21 -year-old Phoenix portrayed a student seduced into carnage by psychotically ambitious newswoman Nicole Kidman. Since then, they’ve remained close as their individual profiles have grown.

“[ Joaquin] is intense, it’s true, but I’ve known him all these times and we’ve kept in touch ,” Van Sant says.” We talk about a lot of things we’re working on separately, but this is our first movie together in over 20 years. He’s very hard-working. We went through the entire dialogue, sheet by sheet. He wanted to make sure everything I was expressing in the fib was something he was in sync with .”

Joaquin Joaquin Phoenix and Jonah Hill in Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. Photograph: Scott Patrick Green/ AP

They rehearsed for two weeks before the commencement of shooting, knowing the character’s alter, calibrating his seriousnes and irony. As the cinema makes clear, Callahan was a complicated guy, a feelings person prone to jag of neediness or even brutality. By his own admission, Van Sant didn’t know what to expect where reference is tell Phoenix have at the specific characteristics, though he had terminated confidence in his leading man. The dialogue includes some preferably requiring substance for a performer, in particular a rock bottom that spots Callahan dragging himself around the floor like a slug in an effort to retrieve a wine bottle that’s rolled under a chair. But when questioned as to whether these were difficult days on initiate, Van Sant mounts the record straight.

” Working in the first hospital was hard-handed, because of the revolving gurney ,” he echoes.” It was age-old, sometimes it malfunctioned. But whatever panorama we’re working on, we make it as hard-handed as we are going to be able. If it’s not hard, we push it until it is. That’s what you be brought to an end doing, because if you sitting here and you let it be super easy, you’re going to be phoning it in .”

Phoenix and Van Sant have achieved a imaginative synthesis that many masters spend their entire lives searching for, where intuitive fathom constructs communication seamless if not wasteful. That degree of closeness takes time to build, and in these instances, their bail is strengthened by their shared retention of Joaquin’s fucking brother River. Before River died from an overdose, he worked with Van Sant on My Own Private Idaho, perhaps Van Sant’s most widely acclaimed movie. When I liken Don’t Worry to Milk in their reorganizing of one man’s conflicted struggle against misery, Van Sant acquires the counter-suggestion that the movie is more similar to My Own Private Idaho or To Die For in its elliptical care of occasion. It does not seem coincidental that he refers the two movies fronted by Phoenix boys.

But if these discussions coated Van Sant as a mortal bound up in his own past, it also imparted him copious opportunity to look to the future. He’s a man comfortable in seemingly any posture or showbiz surrounding, acts as executive make to films in need of a push through yield and cameoing as himself on Entourage. Most recently and outrageously, he appeared in the Jonah Hill-directed music video for Ain’t It Funny by Detroit rap maniac Danny Brown. The surreal, violent video sheds Van Sant as the wholesome father figure on a sitcom with decompose at its spring, a bizarre gig by which he nonetheless sounds unfazed.

” To be playing a attribute, it’s good for board of directors. Prompts you of how difficult it is, to wear a costume and say lines. But I don’t know that I’ve got much street cred in the hip-hop community ,” he deadpans.

His amenable attitude extends to his business dealings as well. Don’t Worry comes to theaters courtesy of Amazon’s fledgling movie studio, a reasonably disorienting logo to see pinned to a film by one of American independent cinema’s posting boys. But Van Sant is unintimidated by brand-new horizons, stating that Amazon and other streaming scaffolds have” opened up tons of possibilities” for longform storytelling. When asked whether he’d ever try his hand at the limited succession that his indie cohorts ought to have flocking to in droves as of late, he’s entirely amenable to the idea. He’s not at all concerned about the shift away from brick-and-mortar cinemas.

” Movie theaters certainly was about to erects of the past’s industrial cinema, where it was easier to get thousands of people to hear one book at the same period ,” he says.” Now, it’s a different industrial create. You might see it on a smaller screen, but the original movies were shown on nickelodeons, which had very small screens .”

With this, Van Sant situates himself on the same frequency as Joaquin, or River, or John Callahan, or the defiantly different attributes on which he civilizes his camera. He’s a reminder that indie is suddenly for “independent”, haunting his intimately personal thematic and stylistic caprices wherever they may lead him. And that’s not always into critical kindnes; his last two films, the mortality rate musing Sea of Trees and fracking drama Promised land, have described mixed-to-poor notices from the press. In frequently singular pattern, however, he has paid them no recollection and in fact redoubled down on his intrinsic Van Sant-ness to recognize a long-gestating infatuation project.

In Don’t Worry, after Callahan situates his first newspaper cartoon, he starts pedaling around township to excitedly prove everyone who will give him the time of day. When a duet of art students legislate him by without stopping to ogle, he hollers back at them with an unprintable word. And hitherto in that time, Callahan seems only amused by their indifference. One gets the sense there’s a bit of Van Sant in that minute: a follower fully and merrily committed to doing his own thought, everyone else be damned.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is now out in the US with a UK date yet to be announced


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