On Sunday night one of our regular contributors, Denise, checked out the Film Society of Lincoln Center screening of My Own Private River at the Walter Reade Theater in New York City. The movie is a remix James Franco created of never-before-seen outtakes of Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, starring River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves as young, gay street hustlers.
Check out Denise’s fascinating report and photos from the event below:
The My Own Private River screening was interesting. I saw My Own Private Idaho several years ago so I was familiar with the story, which will definitely help for anyone seeing this re-imagined version.
James and Gus Van Sant spent an entire weekend watching 25 hours of dailies and Gus had the idea that James should re-cut it as if he were making it today. Before James made it, he got Joaquin Phoenix’s blessing. Originally James made a 12 hour version! This version premiered at the Gagosian Gallery in LA. James said he was adamant about making a “non-commercial enterprise” and considering this film an “examination of the material” rather than a conventional narrative film. Joaquin was uncomfortable with the 12 hour film so James obeyed Joaquin’s wishes and never showed that version again. James said the 12 hour film was more about the “arc of the filmmaker” and the shorter 102 minute version was more about the “arc of the character.”
James shared a story that Gus had told him about a memorable experience shooting the original. He said they were filming the final scene of the movie before it would wrap and Keanu and River were in a taxi in Italy and River only had to say simple dialogue, but River kept goofing off and messing it up. They got up to take 15 and Gus was getting pissed off. Finally River delivered the line properly and the crew brought out a cake and River put his face down in the cake. Gus said River didn’t want to the filming to end and that’s why he was behaving badly and wasting time. James said he could relate to that.
There’s a scene in a supermarket (I can’t remember if it’s in the original at all), but James said it was such a pure moment he included a long scene of it in his version. River is walking through a supermarket picking up items and checking out and it was totally unscripted and very pure.
Gus told James that River used to call his most emotional scenes his “River Phoenix moment” and he thought he would have this moment during a tense scene with the character of his brother when he’s finding out about his past, but his “River Phoenix moment” actually happened when he was doing a scene with Keanu and he told him he loved him.
James said My Own Private Idaho was such an important film from his teenage years and to get to view all these scenes in their raw state was very special to him. He said he had to get past his inhibitions and take his ego out of it in order to be able to edit it. He said it was such a gift to edit something he loves so much.
Michael Stipe scored the film (his first time doing that) and I found that his music went really well with it. Someone commented that Michael was friends with River.
An audience member made a comment that in this film, it took a while for the story to kick in. James said he feels sometimes that a narrative can “strangle a film” and he prefers to not rely on a strong narrative when making films.
He said a movie/art installation called Francophrenia that was filmed for General Hospital in a museum scene will be premiering at The Tribeca Film Festival this year. He also said an art video called Rebel he did with Harmony Korine that premiered in Venice and will be seen in L.A. will be shown in NYC in “pieces.”
I must add that after it was over James, yet again, stayed afterward and hung around to chat with fans and take pictures. There was a large crowd that hung around to talk to him and he took the time to meet and pose with everyone. It’s nice to see that he is consistently good to the fans like this (he did the same thing after the Glass Menagerie play). He was in no rush to leave and was happy to hang around after until everyone was done.
James Franco’s next project will be Spring Breakers, which begins filming in the St. Petersburg, Fl area soon.
Thanks to Denise for the amazing report and photos! We want to show off your celeb photos and stories, not the paparazzi’s! If you have photos to share from a celeb event or filming location, send them our way at email@example.com!