Gus Van Sant could easily be the most anonymous person in the room when Screen International meets the filmmaker at Sundance Film Festival. Far from ostentatious, and with his dog at his feet, it is the expression that gives him away — like a 1960s surfer dad caught in the headlights of today.
Decked out in a plaid shirt and jeans in a converted media lounge in Park City, Van Sant gives nothing away about how he feels Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot went down at its Sundance world premiere several days earlier. In fact, there was generous applause at the Eccles Theatre and U.S. critics have been mainly supportive.
Now Van Sant’s latest feature heads to Berlin, where FilmNation handles international sales and a broader audience will sample his tribute to late quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan, which glides between acerbic character study and observational comedy. Van Sant had known Callahan’s drawings and began hanging out with his fellow Portlander when Robin Williams optioned Callahan’s book circa 1997, and they began to map out an adaptation. “He didn’t live very far — it was only 10 blocks,” Van Sant mumbles, breaking into a fleeting smile when someone brings his Australian Shepherd puppy. “We went on trips. He liked to go in a cab that could take his wheelchair and go to a restaurant on the beach.”