"My Own Private Idaho" Is Released
My Own Private Idaho is a 1991 independent film written and directed by Gus Van Sant, loosely based on Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1. The story follows two friends, Mike (River Phoenix) and Scott (Keanu Reeves), 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 shelved it after reading John Rechy's 1963 novel, City of Night, realizing that it dealt with the subject of street hustlers better than what he had written. 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 trouble getting any Hollywood studio to finance the film, and at one point considered making it on a shoestring budget with a cast of actual street kids. He sent copies of his script to Keanu Reeves and to River Phoenix, assuming that they would turn it down, and was surprised when both agreed to star in the film.
My Own Private Idaho had its premiere at the 1991 Venice Film Festival, and went on to receive largely positive reviews from established critics like Roger Ebert and publications like The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly. The film made over $6.4 million in North America, 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.
Two young hustlers meet in Portland, Ore., and for a time affect each other's lives during an odyssey that takes them to Idaho, Italy and back. Mike Waters (River Phoenix) is a male prostitute with an urge to find his mother. Scott Favor (Keanu Reeves) is a smooth operator with an agenda that includes humiliating his father, the Mayor of Portland, before accepting a large inheritance. Seeming to wander aimlessly, Gus Van Sant Jr.'s film makes its well-plotted way to a logical conclusion. , The New York Times