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Don’t take this amiss, but I’m glad you aren’t doing the Harvey Milk movie. I could see you doing the film and then being attacked by everybody in the world because it wasn’t politically what they wanted. The Harvey Milk story wasn’t so much about the actual incarnation of Harvey and the Castro district in San Francisco, but the emergence and importance of the gay movement, which to me is the great subject. Last night they had an incredible documentary on PBS about sexuality: homosexuality, lesbianism, and desire in Germany from 1900–1945. It was too like a circus, a regular Hollywood script. The Randy Shilts book didn’t do the kind of things you want to have happen in a movie. I couldn’t personally do that script; the film would have been a cliché. One of the guys who said that is Michelangelo Signorelli, who’s a gay gay-basher. He said, “When I was a teenager I used to fag-bash. And there we were pretentiously meeting at the Four Seasons. You know, Tony Perkins was going to play the Countess in Yeah, she’s great in it. I mean he wrote it exactly in his own voice, this raving political activist. I just had a gig like that, every time the thing went in, they didn’t like my attitude, and kept suggesting a different approach. So finally, I wrote down everything the editor said on the phone, verbatim, and just stuck it into the article in his own words. The last time I talked to you in an interview situation you mentioned that all this press here said, That’s true. Didn’t this story of the actress too drunk to do her lines, doesn’t that go back to the 1920s and D. As a director you’ve gone through experiences where it didn’t work, where the audience didn’t fall for the sawing the girl in half routine, so you watch for the things that are going to show up, where you go: Wait a minute!
I mean, we belong to this minority group where you’re always wrong as an artist, because there’s already an establishment who’ve appointed themselves the custodians of this identity. And it can be fabricated, and explained—maybe it didn’t happen exactly that way—but you understand it. You know, the gay movement is one hundred years old. People only started talking about “homosexuality” in like 1880 or something. Harvey wasn’t funny in the script; in real life he was hilarious. I was also very wary of getting into a position where, if I had to fill out stuff from a sketchy script, the producers could object to what I came up with. I had no guarantee that the film wouldn’t just be taken away from me at the first hint of trouble. I’d go around with my friends and beat them up.” As soon as I heard that I thought, “I get it. It was a Joyce Maynard novel that Buck Henry wrote a screenplay from. There was a falling out between my co-writer, Paul Bartel, and I, because I wrote a version of my own while he was working on a draft. It’s not a big part, but everyone really likes her part because she plays a drunk. There’s this one study that says Hollywood figured out the movies that make the most money, collectively, are sequels. We can’t do that, because the last time I did that it didn’t work. I think as a theater producer/director, he was putting on a magic show that extended into dramatics.
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The tough Italian kids end up dating the blonde IBM president’s daughters, and it’s this mismatch of backgrounds. Jeannie came to the door and said, “Ooooh my God, hiiii . The script isn’t in the right proportions, things aren’t happening at the right pace. Stanley Kubrick says people who make bad movies get bad reviews and get drummed out of the business, but if a caveman told a bad story, he’d probably have been stoned to death.
With Harvey Milk, there were people like Cleve Jones who I really got close to. I thought the street activity and protests and marches were a fascinating part of that story. there are so many superstars in the Warhol entourage, you can mix and match, you can make up a superstar. The protagonists aren’t being challenged, they aren’t coming to life .
So, in Cleve’s case, I rented his place, he was my roommate.
Conversations with Gus Van Sant often turn on the subject of luck, roll of chance in artistic career. Artists can retrieve all the crappy experiences and make them into something. New Line is getting big enough now that it’s becoming more substantial, like the studios.
If Van Sant hadn’t been talked into attending Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival seven years ago with his low budget , and if the film hadn’t won a prize, his friend Christoph Eichorn might not have talked him into staying on (at an earlier period, Van Sant had tried the Hollywood hustle for several years, and given up), and the deal for , would never have come together—and, in that case, you wouldn’t be reading an interview with Gus Van Sant right now. I just took a variation, recognizing a market that I was part of. You only have a certain number of shots with a film. Not long ago, I met Anthony Perkins at the Four Seasons. There’re businessmen running the industry, just like the fashion business. They travel around and buy a bunch of stuff, then steal the neck from this, take the buttons from another shirt and make this interpretation. I suppose the reason Hollywood can’t eliminate the creative side, the writers and directors and actors, which I think they’d like to do, and where clothing places like The Gap can, is, if you can find a shirt in a store in Milan, you actually have the thing there.
Since his luck has been very good, Van Sant—who is one of very few artists with a sensibility distinct enough to leave a powerful mark in several media, including filmmaking, photography and writing—now has the enviable reputation in Hollywood of being a director who, “Should be able to do whatever he wants.” This includes living in Portland, Oregon and shooting most of his films close to home. I wanted to show how the Abstract Expressionists were, at one point, laughing at the Pop artists, screaming, “You’re fools! ” When it was actually because Pop artists were getting the shows. The Factory, the success, the money that came with it, how it all went into this really weird channel, like a ridiculous Alice in Wonderland scene. Usually, young filmmakers make a horror film, because it’s easy to sell. My angle was—Gay Cinema was just starting to happen. They were speaking to an audience who didn’t have anything anyway, they would see anything that related to them. Funny thing is, we met at the Four Seasons when we could just as easily have met at the Chateau Marmont, but we didn’t know what each other’s image was, so we met at the Four Seasons, which is very hoity toity. My sister works at Victoria’s Secret, and she says that they don’t even use designers. You can say, “I want this part,” and a technician can measure and reproduce it.His latest feature, was one of the first hippy novels to come out. It dissipated, that Factory scene, but it actually ended with the shooting. In 1982, had done record box office, and the New York Gay Film Festival was just starting up. And I just thought, "Well, if it doesn’t work on a global scale as a film, if it doesn’t translate to a wider audience, maybe it can fall back into a gay audience." It’s like choosing your subject as a writer. Now there’s this guy writing a book about Anthony Perkins who wants to know what we talked about. I know that he died and that he had AIDS and was hiding it from everyone. That’s not really creating a shirt, that’s more like copying a shirt.So far, I don’t think my films have shown their roots as “hippy.” They’re more a modern art school graduate sensibility. The ’50s art director kid, I wanted River Phoenix to play, because they look alike. But I came from Hollywood and all the traditions of how to “make it” in the movie business. But then I felt, well, this guy just wants to know the little things, like the way Anthony Perkins said things. He was my age or younger, but a totally different kind of person, and he was a political activist. Personally, I can’t tell any more, because I don’t think I ever really knew. A designer can tell you why that’s bad, why certain things might not have energy if they’re done that way or whatever.But I came of age in the ’60s and wore a top hat and a marine jacket in my suburban neighborhood. That ’60s movement and sensibility wore off very quickly. But I like it, and I always pushed It was too hard to figure out how everything works. And I do know those, because I remember them, but in fact it was just an idle chat. My article was about censorship, but I was dealing with it from my point of view, jokes and stuff. Also, the saying goes that nobody really knows how this business works. You know, there are people who write scripts who are million dollar writers, who’ve never had anything shot. Minimum scale is like 0,000 for a script, so you can’t make less than that if you’re a Guild member. It all starts to network until you’ve met everybody and you actually exist as a character in this town. But a film is more complicated than a shirt, and ultimately, the studios think you should be able to just take bits of screenplays and have a technical writer restructure the dialogue. there’s always something missing, like the conductor in the orchestra.Like how the electricity gets to all the buildings, and the sewage systems. That bugged me enough that I didn’t want to live in Manhattan. But the biographer wants to know what it was like, because it was one of the last idle chats that he might be able to get on record. " And then he bounded off toward this Rolls Royce, and I thought, “It’s like young Hollywood, he’s driving off in his Rolls.” And he walks past the Rolls and out onto the street. But by the second paragraph, I started to sound like Abbie Hoffman. They make movies that are kind of like sequels, ideas that are similar. People who have made a billion dollars out here say that. When I did It’s just like any other scene or business. Design a screenplay, give it to the guy who knows how the camera works, then eliminate the director, and just let the camera guy set up the shot. But when they do that, and sometimes they do that in a way, I think . Things start to go out of time, and when they don’t know why things are getting out of time and how to get it back into time, the guy they didn’t use in the first place is the one who knows how to fix it. A lot of directing is trying to orchestrate a magic trick, to give the appearance of something happening that isn’t actually happening. The end result is essentially always the same thing: it’s always a film that has images, pictures, people, and the soundtrack.I lived in my parents’s house in Connecticut and commuted. And that’s pretty important to a writer of a biography. We get to the front door of the restaurant, there’s this yellow Rolls Royce 1963 convertible, the doorman has the door open, and Perkins says, "I remember the Chateau Marmont in the ’50s, when you might go down for a swim, and you’d see Natalie Wood and James Dean sitting by the side of the pool laughing, those were really the days . I’m walking down the street and I hear this beep beep, and it’s Perkins, he’s waving from this small mini-station wagon. He had rewritten it, and put in what he wanted me to be writing. But that’s why anybody can make it, because nobody really knows what’s going on. Nobody knows what’s really going down on the street, so all kinds of things can be going down, because it’s whatever you dream up, right? One that can take the place of the world I know, and become a voice for my own life. If you are here writing, eventually the person you wrote the first script for, five years later, is the head of the story department and remembers you, and if they liked you . When you read about Hitchcock’s experiences making . ” The responsibility of the director orchestrating this—ultimately it’s like a magic show where you saw the girl in half, it looks like she’s really in half, and she’s not, hopefully.