Gus Van Sant premieres new film at Cannes
May 14 2005 12:00 AM ET
Off the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, gay American director Gus Van Sant was at pains to stress that his competition film Last Days was not "based on" the life of grunge rocker Kurt Cobain, who killed himself in 1994, but rather was only "inspired by" it. Van Sant, who won the Cannes Film Festival's top Golden Palm award in 2003 for Elephant, which was "inspired by" the Columbine school shooting, was asked repeatedly why the film about a character named "Blake" avoids direct links to Cobain. He said even though he once thought about making a biopic about Cobain, he long ago scrapped the idea and wanted instead to avoid getting bogged down in the details of the rock star's tragically short life. He said fiction was more appropriate.
Cobain's band Nirvana was at the core of the Seattle music scene in the early 1990s. "There were a lot of things about Kurt that inspired us," Van Sant said. "We saw the original idea about a biopic was a wrong turn. There's too much information about his life to pare down.... But as for last days, we didn't know what really happened." When pressed by one reporter on whether the fear of a lawsuit by Cobain's wife, Courtney Love, also had a role, Van Sant finally admitted: "Yes, we were afraid she was going to sue us."
Van Sant, who directed Nicole Kidman in the black comedy To Die For (1995) as well as Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting (1997), said it is easier for him to be behind the camera rather than in front of it. He told reporters that, even after two decades as a director and three appearances in front of the media frenzy at Cannes, he still feels out of place. "I try to hide from the media," Van Sant said. "I try not to think about it because it's enormous. Standing in front of all these photographers out there is enormous. There are thousands and thousands of pictures taken and you never see where they go."
There's not a lot of dialogue in Last Days, and some of the few lines delivered as intentional mumbles by actor Michael Pitt, who plays the character known as "Blake" that was inspired by Kurt Cobain, are simply unintelligible. But French-speaking viewers were, ironically, afforded a deeper understanding of what the grunge rocker wired on drugs was actually saying during the 97-minute film--thanks to the French subtitles. (Reuters)