Gus van Sant lives in Portland, Oregon – not too far from Los Angeles, but far enough to keep a distance. Born in 1952, he studied painting at Rhode Island School of Design and immersed himself into the flamboyant art scene of New York. He soon found himself creating experimental films, embarking on a straight and steady path from independent art house successes likeDrugstore Cowboy and My Own Private Idaho to more popular Hollywood dramas such as Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester.
Nowadays, Gus van Sant is one of the only directors to work within and without Hollywood with remarkable ease and credibility, switching between small independent productions such asParanoid Park and Restlessto more commercial projects likeMilk and Promised Land, working with non-actors and Hollywood stars with the same nonchalance. It seems like an enviable position of independence.
But independence is a state of mind and, if anything, Gus van Sant appears to be guided by intuition and curiosity, willing to take risks and opening himself to the possibility of failure. Arguably, some of his films might fare better than others over time, but they form a body of work that is surprisingly diverse and consistently courageous.