James Franco has edited together un-used footage from Gus Van Sant’s “My Own Private Idaho” to tell a story that follows River Phoenix’s character, Mike, more closely. This sounds like a huge undertaking. Franco went so far as to shoot two earlier script drafts as a way to get a sense of the location and to better understand the characters.
This sounds quite fantastic. James Franco accomplishes a lot!
“I edited the film as I imagined Gus might have if he made ‘My Own Private Idaho’ today,” Franco said. He called ” Idaho” one of his favorite movies and praised River Phoenix’s performance as the late actor’s best. Franco then skittishly explained how he used conversations with Van Sant, with whom he had previously collaborated on “Milk,” to determine how to edit the footage Van Sant didn’t put into the theatrical cut of ‘Idaho.’ “Since Gus likes longer takes now, I tried to match that style,” Franco said, citing newly-retired Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr as a key influence on both Franco’s editing of ‘River’ and Van Sant’s own recent films.
But that’s not all Franco did to get into Van Sant’s head. To get a better idea of what his mentor was thinking, Franco shot 8mm adaptations of two of the three scripts that Van Sant combined to form the one that he eventually used as the basis for “My Own Private Idaho.” To do this, Franco enlisted the help of actor Henry Hopper, Dennis Hopper’s son and the star of Van Sant’s most recent film, “Restless.” Hopper played Phoenix’s role in an adaptation of a script that was also tentatively titled “My Own Private Idaho.” Franco also got character actor Udo Kier, who starred in the original “My Own Private Idaho,” to help film his two 8mm test-run adaptations. “It was fascinating to see him play this role that he played 20 years ago,” Franco confessed. Unfortunately, Kier could only participate in one of the two practice-run 8mm films Franco shot before making “My Own Private River.” “He kept giving us excuses,” Franco laughed, saying that Kier was concerned about learning lines his lines for the upcoming “Scooby Doo 3.”
What is your favorite River Phoenix performance?