Gus Green Van Sant, Jr. is an American film director, screenwriter, painter, photographer, musician and author who has earned acclaim as both an independent and more mainstream filmmaker.
Mr. Van Sant was born in Louisville, Kentucky, United States on July 24, 1952. He is a son of Betty (née Seay) and Gus Green Van Sant, Sr. Gus's father was a clothing manufacturer and traveling salesman who rapidly worked his way into middle class prosperity, holding executive marketing positions that included being president of the White Stag Manufacturing Company's Apparel Operation. As a result of his father's job, the family moved continually during Mr. Van Sant's childhood.
Gus Van Sant studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design after high school, but he soon switched to filmmaking. He graduated from the college in 1975 with Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
When Mr. Van Sant finished his studies, he moved to Los Angeles. After several years in California, Van Sant took a job in New York City directing commercials for an advertising agency. He continued to explore his interest in film on the side by writing screenplays in his spare time. He was an assistant to film director Ken Shapiro, Los Angeles, starting 1975. Between 1981 and 1983 Mr. Van Sant served at Cadwell Davis (advertising agency), New York City, holding the post of a commercials producer. Using the money he saved from his advertising job, Van Sant funded his first feature film, Mala Noche (1985).
During his prolific cereer he was a director of a number of films, including The Discipline of D.E. (short; based on a short story by William S. Burroughs), 1978; My Friend, 1983; My New Friend, 1985; Ken Death Gets out of Jail, 1987; Five Ways to Kill Yourself (short), 1987; Junior, 1988; To Die For, Columbia, 1995; and Alice in Hollywood.
In 1997, Mr. Van Sant gained mainstream acceptance thanks to Good Will Hunting, starring and written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. In 2000, Gus Van Sant directed Finding Forrester, about a high-school student from the Bronx unlikely becoming a friend of a crusty, reclusive author. Critical response was generally positive.
In addition to directing, Gus Van Sant wrote the screenplays for several of his earlier works, and is the author of a novel entitled Pink. A book of his photography, called 108 Portraits, has also been published, and he has released two musical albums.
In 2005, Mr. Van Sant released Last Days, the final component of what he refers to as his "Death Trilogy," (the other parts being Gerry and Elephant).
His 2011 project Restless was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, and starred Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper, the son of actor Dennis Hopper.
In December 2016, it was announced Gus Van Sant would direct Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, a biopic about cartoonist John Callahan. Principal photography began in March 2017.
"I see an image that represents the whole film. And so I start to work toward that image, and then I fill it all out, and it becomes very complicated, because you have to have a lot of elements to make the image come to life."
Gus Van Sant is openly gay.