Gus Van Sant: interview
Ben Walters talks to Gus Van Sant about shooting, casting and soundtracking his new film 'Paranoid Park'.
It’s because they’re set in high schools. I always thought teenagers are youthful enough that they’ve pretended recently; it wasn’t so long ago that they were playing war or trying to be Rambo. It’s play-acting. We tried it for ‘Last Days’ but those characters were rock ’n’ rollers in their mid-twenties, and none of those people would come to our casting calls, so we ended up casting our friends. If you put up posters around town for high-school kids, high-school kids will come. If you’re casting politicians, you can’t put up posters and have politicians come down. Also, with reality shows and ‘American Idol’, non-professionals don’t feel they’re excluded like they might have 20 years ago.
Most of your films are about lost boys of one kind or another.
They usually have male characters, lost boys, but often it’s ad hoc families that are interesting to me. Because I didn’t have brothers, I was always interested in the kids down the street that had four brothers in their family, so I became one of them – but it was not my family.
I’ve always been attracted to temporary families. They tend to be lost characters.
How did you and Chris Doyle develop the look of the film?
I’d worked together with Chris before on ‘Psycho’, but we didn’t get very crazy there – we pretty much tried to copy [Hitchcock’s movie]. So this was our opportunity to do something else. One of Chris’s films that I liked was ‘Fallen Angels’ [directed by Wong Kar-Wai], which used a wide lens. I knew that skateboarders often use a really wide lens [for skate movies] ’cos that way you won’t miss the action, so I tried talking him into shooting like that. But he had an aversion to directly quoting one of his films, so we kept going into what the story was asking us to do, what I wanted to do and what his choices were. He made a detailed breakdown of the script, about four notebooks long. Most of the time we’re just shooting a human being doing something; we’re very fascinated as audience members with ourselves. So it comes down to environments: coffee shops, country roads, fields.
The music and sound design are also important in giving us access to Alex’s headspace. Did you put much planning into that?
No, that came later. We were thinking about location sound during shooting, but not the music or sound design at all.
The music does a lot of work, though – sometimes it even replaces the dialogue. It feels like Alex is listening to his iPod.
Actually, a lot of the music came from listening to iTunes while we were editing. My assistant editor is sort of a musicologist so we would listen to different things from this massive inventory of his music. Shuffle was usually on and I would say, ‘What is this song? That works really good right here’, and we’d drag it over into Final Cut Pro [the film editing application].
There’s a moment of violence in the film that is very disturbing, to us as well as to Alex.
It was different in the book; I had the idea this would be an interesting graphic. The accident is the thing he’s keeping secret, but what you’re thinking about maybe as you watch it is your secret, or the thing you couldn’t tell anyone when you were that age. You’re forced to become an adult by keeping things in your own mind.
‘Paranoid Park’ is out on December 26.
Author: Ben Walters
Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.
The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards
Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow
Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.
The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.
Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'
'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.
Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.
The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'
The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.
Read our interview with Michael Haneke
The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.
Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'
Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.
Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us
Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.
Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set
The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.
Read our interview with Tim burton
Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.
Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'
Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.
Read 'Film guilty pleasures'
What will Disney do to 'Star Wars'?
Read about the new 'Star Wars' trilogy
Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.
Read 'When teen stars turn serious'
From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.
Read '50 years of James Bond'
The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.
Read the interview
Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.
Read 'Hilarious horror films'
The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.
Read the interview
We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.
Read about this Autumn's best horror movies
Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.
Read 'On the set of Skyfall'
Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?
The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.
'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’