James Franco was 15 when River Phoenix died at the age of 23. He has remained a devoted fan and has remixed images from Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho, in which Phoenix played Seattle hustler Mike alongside Keanu Reaves.
Franco spent two days watching the film’s dailies and outtakes with Van Sant and edited together a new version that combines footage from the original film and its unused residue.
As Franco put it in a piece he wrote for The Paris Review: “Many filmmakers would consider the discarded material worthless, but sometimes—as when they feature an actor like River Phoenix in a film like My Own Private Idaho, the best of his generation giving his best performance—every scrap is gold. It was overwhelming to be able to cut the raw material of my favorite film, a film that had moved me, that had helped shape me as a teenager.” The end result, My Own Private River, is a dreamlike portrait of both the actor and the character he incarnates.
Franco will attend this weekend's screening of My Own Private River at the Film Comment Selects series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Plus, extending his project into three-dimensional space, Franco has collaborated with Gus Van Sant on Memories of Idaho, an installation that re-creates an AA meeting hall featuring three related single-channel films: "Idaho," Franco’s 62-minute Super-8 film based on one of the three original drafts Van Sant wrote and eventually combined into My Own Private Idaho; "Narcolepsy"(which consists of dailies); and the recently completed "My Blue Funk."