James Franco Talks Remixing My Own Private Idaho

The actor talks with director Gus Van Sant about his arthouse salute to My Own Private Idaho.

Photo by Vanessa Milan Reid

James Franco’s holding on to his title as the hardest-working actor/writer/director/artist/cat fancier in show business. Although filming of Oz, The Great And Powerful forced him to cancel his Saturday afternoon appearance at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, he rescheduled for Sunday, when he chatted before an audience with director Gus Van Sant about their film installation “Memories of Idaho.” He made the four-and-a-half-hour drive back that night to be at work for 5 AM, where he’s playing Oz in the Disney prequel.

For “Memories of Idaho,” Van Sant shared hundreds of rolls of unused footage with Franco from his 1991 film My Own Private Idaho, which Franco then re-edited into two films, Idaho and Memories of River. “My favourite film is My Own Private Idaho,” Franco told the audience. When he was in junior high, he had an obsession with the River Phoenix/Keanu Reeves drama about street hustlers in Portland. “I would go to the little video store and rent it on VHS and watch it over and over,” he says. “Even the clothes, I remember, I tried to dress like River.”

When Franco worked with Van Sant on Milk, he had the opportunity of a lifetime—to ask everything he ever wanted about his all-time favourite film. “I humbly asked Gus if I could…cut something together, and if he didn’t like it, I would never show anybody,” Franco said. “I thought it would be interesting because it took us six months to cut the film together, and James was going to do it in a month,” Van Sant said. “By himself.”

The result has breathed new life into the 20 year old film. One part of the installation, My Own Private River, has already shown in Los Angeles and New York, and Franco intends to continue touring the project. “It’s material I would have wanted to see so I’d love to just continue to show it,” he said.

But first, it’s back to Detroit, where he’s set up a makeshift home, complete with his two cats, Sammy and Zelda. “They’re normally New York apartment cats, but I’m working in Detroit for quite awhile, so we flew them to Detroit,” he said. Considering even his cats have a jet-setting lifestyle, it doesn’t appear the hardest-working man in show business is slowing down anytime soon.??

“Memories Of Idaho” is on display until September 18 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.