This is brave movie making. Gus Van Sant took a giant risk with this masterpiece about rent boys. The two stars (Reeves,Phoenix) took a major gamble as starring as said Rent boys. The risks paid off. 'My Own Private Idaho' is a great little off-beat movie.
I watched it 20 years ago (loved it), and i watched the dvd version again recently, and even after all those years this movie still mesmerises me. One aspect of 'My Own Private Idaho" that I thought was interesting was its use of Shakespeare's Henry IV (I think, but i could be wrong), with Keanu Reeves taking the role of the dissolute Prince Hal, who at the end of the film rejects his prostitute friends to emerge like 'the sun, as if from behind clouds' in order to properly inherit his father's kingdom. Reeves cruel rejection obviously destroys the character played by River Phoenix.
Outstanding film! River Phoenix was an extra-ordinary actor. Having watched the campsite scene again in My Own Private Idaho, I noticed Phoenix's body-language, and his improvisation acting skills and intonation, and i realised that he (Phoenix) was one of the greatest actors in the history of motion pictures. And there are certain scenes in Running On Empty in which he steps completely outside the box (to use a contemporary cliche).
Gus Van Sant is supposed to have fallen in love with him. Don't know if that's true or not, but in Van Sants book (available on this site) one character falls in love with another character who plays a rent Boy in a movie.
My Own Private idaho is an odd little gem.
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