Released in 1991 and directed by Gus Van Sant, My Own Private Idaho is a film about two male street hustlers going on a journey of self-discovery that takes them to Idaho and Italy. The film won a variety of awards, including Best Actor for River Phoenix at the National Society of Film Critics Awards. Shot in Oregon, Rome, and Washington State, the film features actors River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves.
Released in 2008 and directed by Gus Van Sant, Milk is a biopic about America’s first openly gay politician. The film won the awards for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role and Best Writing – Original Screenplay at the 2009 Oscars. Shot primarily in San Francisco in Sicily, the film features actors Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, and Josh Brolin.
I was thinking about making a more universal coming of age story that explored sexual awakening but ultimately the story for me is a lot about coming to terms with grief and loss. I thought that aspect of losing someone important to you was an element that everyone could relate to one way or another.