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Biography #2 (for Elephant)

Gus Van Sant has been winning over critics and audiences alike since bursting onto the scene with his widely acclaimed feature film Mala Noche (1985), which won the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Independent/Experimental Film of 1987. Van Sant's body of work includes many hallmarks of 90's independent cinema, notably Drugstore Cowboy (1989), My Own Private Idaho (1991), and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (1993). Van Sant's direction of Nicole Kidman in the black comedy To Die For (1995) won a Golden Globe Award and was screened at the Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals.

Van Sant received a Best Director Academy Award nomination for Good Will Hunting (1997), which received a total of nine Academy Award nominations (including wins for Best Supporting Actor Robin Williams and Best Original Screenplay by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck). Van Sant followed with the controversial remake of a classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller, Psycho (1998), which was the first shot-for-shot recreation of a film. The new millennium brought the release of the literary drama Finding Forrester (2000), starring Sean Connery, Rob Brown, F. Murray Abraham, and Anna Paquin. Van Sant returned to his indie roots with the beautiful and austere Gerry (2002), which he wrote with the film's stars Matt Damon and Casey Affleck. The experience of making the improvisational Gerry informed the making of Van Sant's next film, Elephant (2003). Elephant premiered in competition at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, where it garnered the Palme d'Or and Best Director prizes.

Throughout his career Mr. Van Sant has continued to make evocative short films, which have been winning awards at film festivals worldwide. These works include an adaptation of William S. Burroughs' short story The Discipline of DE, a deadpan black-and-white gem shown at the New York Film Festival. In 1996 Van Sant directed Allen Ginsberg reading his own poem, Ballad of the Skeletons, to the music of Paul McCartney and Philip Glass, which premiered at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival. Other acclaimed shorts include Five Ways to Kill Yourself (1987), Thanksgiving Prayer (1991, a re-teaming with Burroughs), and Easter (1999), scripted by Harmony Korine.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Van Sant earned a BA at the Rhode Island School of Design before moving to Hollywood. Early in his career he spent two years in New York creating commercials for Madison Avenue. Eventually he settled in Portland, Oregon, where in addition to directing and producing, he pursued his other talents painting, photography, and writing. In 1995 he released a collection of photos entitled 108 Portraits (Twelvetrees Press) and two years later published his first novel, Pink (Doubleday), a satire on filmmaking. A longtime musician himself, Van Sant has directed music videos for many top recording artists including David Bowie, Elton John, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Hanson.

Bio courtesy Lionsgate Films for "Elephant" (23-Oct-2003)


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