Well, hold on to your hankies, folks, because here comes another one. In the wake of van Sant's failed Psycho remake, there is Finding Forrester (opening Dec. 25), another sentimental drama about a young and underprivileged academic phenom (newcomer Rob Brown), and his love/hate relationship with an older and wiser mentor figure (Sean Connery in the Oscar-conscious role of an eccentric recluse). Like Damon and Williams before them, they're destined to learn as much about themselves as they learn about each other.
Van Sant, 48, spoke about his new film during a recent interview.
CL: Talk a little about some of the inevitable comparisons between Finding Forrester and Good Will Hunting, which are both about a young, underprivileged academic phenom and his relationship with an older, wiser mentor figure.
GVS: Aside from the thematic similarities, though, both scripts came to me in the same way, too, sort of appearing out of nowhere. I mean, I just happened to run into a friend from Miramax who mentioned Good Will Hunting to me. I read it and it was sharp and well put-together, and something I certainly never could've come up with on my own. It was a kind of movie I'd never done before, and that was appealing. The same thing happened with Finding Forrester. It was fluke. I was talking to Columbia about another project when I heard about this. The script was every bit as sharp, as well put-together as Good Will Hunting, and there just aren't a lot of cases when you come across scripts that good. I guess I went ahead and did Finding Forrester basically for fear I'd never see a better script again.
But if part of the appeal of Good Will Hunting was that you'd never made a film like that before, what was the appeal of making a second one like this?
I don't know. Maybe it was partly because I hadn't done a film like that twice before. [He laughs.] You know, when I was making smaller, offbeat movies like Drugstore Cowboy or My Own Private Idaho, I used to reassure myself that, obviously, it was easy to make a lot of money or have a lot of people come see your movie if you were dealing with mainstraeam subjects. I always felt that the ones without a mainstream subject were tougher. I just never had any proof of it, you know? So I did Good Will Hunting, and hopefully Finding Forrester will be additional proof that the first movie wasn't just an accident.
Some critics miss those earlier, edgier films of yours. Do you feel you're mellowing as you get older?
It's possible, I suppose. Whether I've mellowed or not, the true test will be to see what happens when I do another edgy movie.
Was your Psycho remake intended to be edgy?
Not exactly. Psycho was kind of like the best-financed experiment I've ever been involved with. The idea was to take a movie that existed and was successful and to remake it, rather than remaking something that existed and was kind of unknown or unsuccessful, and then to see whether or not literally copying it frame-by-frame would retain its intensity. Hitchcock was a master of suspense and anticipation and horror and fear and surprise, and I was somebody who hadn't mastered any of those things. The experiment was, could a guy like me copy a guy like him without infusing my own sensibility into it, however unconsciously or invisibly? The answer turned out to be "no." Any other director would've infused his own style into it, too, but my particular style ended up destroying a lot of the austerity and aloneness and tension, all the good things about the original. I made it into this other thing that wasn't nearly as vital or shocking.
And if you had it to do over again?
Well, I might not do it again, but I'd definitely do it over again, if that makes any sense. What I mean is, if I hadn't already learned what I know now as a result of the experiment, then I'd probably still be interested in finding out if it could work, you know? But now that I know, I guess I'm over it already.
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