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Published on Jun 20, 2012
My Own Private Idaho is a 1991 independent drama film written and directed by Gus Van Sant, loosely based on Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, and Henry V, and starring River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves. The story follows two friends, Mike and Scott, as they embark on a journey of personal discovery that takes them to Mike's hometown in Idaho and then to Italy in search of Mike's mother.
Van Sant originally wrote the screenplay in the 1970s, but discarded it after reading John Rechy's 1963 novel, City of Night, and concluding that Rechy's treatment of the subject of street hustlers was better than his own. Over the years, Van Sant rewrote the script, which comprised two stories: that of Mike and the search for his mother, and Scott's story as a modern update of the Henry IV plays. Van Sant had difficulty getting Hollywood financing, and at one point considered making the film on a minuscule budget with a cast of actual street kids. He sent copies of his script to Reeves and to Phoenix, assuming that they would turn it down, but both agreed to star in the film.
My Own Private Idaho had its premiere at the 1991 Venice Film Festival, and received largely positive reviews, from critics including Roger Ebert and those of The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly. The film was a moderate financial success, grossing over $6.4 million in North America, which was above its estimated budget of $2.5 million. Phoenix received several awards for his performance in the film, including the Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the 1991 Venice Film Festival, Best Male Lead from the Independent Spirit Awards, and Best Actor from the National Society of Film Critics.
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