Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...
GUS VAN SANT WAS FAR from an obvious choice to direct Good Will Hunting, the pet project of actor buddies Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Yet the two trusted Van Sant, known for subversive, sex-and-druggy fare, with their feel-good tale of a young genius. "We knew it wouldn't be a movie by committee," says Affleck. "It wouldn't be watered down. It would be a Gus Van Sant movie."
Van Sant, 45, enjoys Hunting's critical raves, but not speculation he has gone mainstream. "I'm not a conservative person and I haven't changed," says the openly gay director, whose last film was 1995's To Die For. "It's different, not a departure."
Raised in Darien, Conn., Van Sant, who just published a novel called Pink, studied painting and film in college. He found film "more challenging" and put his $25,000 savings into his 1985 feature debut, Mala Noche, following it with 1989's Drugstore Cowboy and 1991's My Own Private Idaho. Known for a laid-back style—"he's like a church mouse, extraordinarily perceptive and quiet," says Damon—Van Sant eschews Hollywood for a Tudor-style home in Portland, Ore. "I'm somewhat naive when I come to L.A. because I'm not living and breathing the business," he says. "But also I'm not neurotic—or at least I'm less neurotic than if I lived in Los Angeles."