My Own Private River, Idaho

It was a packed house at the Portland Hollywood Theatre‘s premier of Gus Van Sant‘s re-mastered piece, “My Own Private Idaho.” Actor James Franco, a student of Rhode Island School of Design and Spidey Man’s on-screen best friend, had his way with film that had only seen Gus’ cutting room floor back in 1991. This new, yet remade movie is reminiscent of the original. Kind of like a long lost cousin you met once when you were five, or a roll of film taken at the beach you never processed but you fondly remember that day.

Gus, I love how you invent stories that make the audience feel uncomfortable due to the fact they reveal a side of the world we tend to sweep under the rug and stand on until the truth burns a hole through the fabric and destroys the lives we have tried so desperately to build. James did you proud with one of the opening scenes of River with his pants down. Those tight, expressive close-ups of River bring tears to the eyes of anyone who knew the depth of his talent and the life that once ran through those veins. In the movie “My Own Private River,” I am more connected with his character than I was during the original. It might be because I have more life experience now than I did 20 years ago. Today, I was dragged through the character’s self torture and disappointment like it was my own.

In the original, I was so much more involved in the relationship between River and Keanu. This time, it was all about River. Is it because he is gone? Is it because he is the star of this film? Or is it because James crafted the film in a way that only a skilled editor could?

I had the chance to ask James about the original impact “My Own Private Idaho” made on him. He expressed how, although he had his own family, these make-shift relationships resonated with him. At that age, he wasn’t looking for a film career or a life in Hollywood, he just liked how River dressed and James tried to mimic him in real life. But he said it came down to the way the film was directed and how it played out on the screen. Like him, I fell in love with “My Own Private Idaho” as a teen and I will never forget the way it made me feel.

Thank you James, Gus, and especially River for teaching me a few things about myself today:

Gus and James on stage at Hollywood Theatre in Portland
Artist Talk, September 25, 2011

1. There is a difference between regret and disappointment. I can control regret, but I can’t control disappointment.

2. Life is about relationships. It is important to build them, but realize when they are dangerous.

3. Don’t let expectations destroy my will to live.

4. The rain in Portland can be loved. It is a small detail that makes this place unique.


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