Gus Van Sant Biography
Born: July 24, 1952
Date of Birth: July 24, 1952
Born in Louisville, Kentucky and educated at the Rhode Island School of Design, Gus Van Sant emerged from the nether-world of producing commercials to become one of the most exciting new directors working in independent film today.
Graced with a style that could best be described as lyrically eccentric, Van Sant's early films have probed that other America; the one lying underneath the perfect country depicted in advertisements and commercials. His landscapes are those of the underbelly of society; the skid rows populated by drifters, drug addicts, and the otherwise dispossessed. While it's true this territory has been explored previously by other filmmakers, Van Sant's perspective of these seamy underworlds is refreshing in its wit and starkly comic honesty.
Van Sant's characters say and do the unexpected; unlike those of many Hollywood movies, they are anything but predictable. For example Bob (in 1989's Drugstore Cowboy ), addicted to chemical substances, freely admits what so many of us refuse to acknowledge; we sometimes engage in dangerous behavior simply because it's fun and we like it.
In To Die For (1995), Van Sant zeroed in on America's compulsive obsession with celebrity fame and fortune; another overworked theme into which he breathes new and, not incidentally, hilarious life. He uses black humor like a painter uses primary colors to bring his creations to life. Lesser known, yet no less significant are Van Sant's shorter autobiographical films of which he has made one each year since 1984 and into which he plans to assemble a cinematic diary. A true visionary maverick, Gus Van Sant embodies those characteristics which Cinequest celebrates and most admires.
In 1998, he received his first Oscar nomination for his direction of the critically acclaimed Good Will Hunting (1997). In 2003, he received the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival for Elephant (2003). In 2009 he received his second Academy Award nomination for Milk (2008). His most recent project is the 2013 drama Promised Land starring Matt Damon, Frances McDormand and John Krasinski.