‘He was simple to identify!’ Gus Van Sant on spying Andy Warhol – and his musical about him | Theatre

In 1982, a 30-year-old Gus Van Sant was taking a stroll in New York on his lunch break when he noticed a legend. “I noticed him stroll by the road,” he remembers. “Madison Avenue, throughout from the place I used to be working in promoting. He was sporting a lightweight blue, light-weight parka and a backpack.” Engrossed in dialog, Warhol didn’t look in Van Sant’s course however was instantly recognisable. “I used to be, like, ‘OK, there’s Warhol!’ He was very simple to identify.” The film-maker’s face creases right into a heat smile, incredulous, as he chuckles. “He appeared precisely as you see him in photos.”

4 many years later, Van Sant is making his directorial stage debut in Lisbon with a musical play, Andy, all concerning the lifetime of the excessive priest of pop artwork. It’s the newest surprising flip from the Palme d’Or-winning director of Elephant, who was Oscar-nominated for Good Will Looking and Milk, and whose extra left-field cinematic experiments embody a shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and a fictionalised account of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s remaining days.

Sudden turns … Gus Van Santo. {Photograph}: Leopoldo Smith Murillo/Getty Pictures

After we meet in Lisbon, Van Sant reminisces about his youthful years, visiting his aunt Joanne who would placed on musicals similar to Carousel at her school in Ohio. At the moment, musicals and theatre didn’t pique his curiosity. “I grew up within the 50s and 60s when musicals had been like the shape inside that period … now they’re sort of a brand new type.” The Guide of Mormon and Hamilton, he says, modified the way in which he thought of musical theatre and the potential the shape had. “I believed stuff was taking place, and I believed it utilized to Andy obliquely.” Van Sant can also be the stage designer and composer of Andy, which is unsurprising contemplating he has been making music “as a interest” for some time. “I’d make complete albums, a few of that are on-line. A few of which we truly, you already know, pressed as CDs.”

The music within the present is made in collaboration with the Portuguese artist Paulo Furtado, AKA the Legendary Tigerman. The primary theme is punctuated by Nineteen Fifties finger-snapping towards xylophone and a bass guitar, with era-appropriate oohing and aahing within the background. Assume West Aspect Story blended with Nineties various rock: low key, reverb-y and barely grunge.

Andy Warhol in the Factory, 1968.
Andy Warhol within the Manufacturing facility, 1968. {Photograph}: Santi Visalli Inc/Getty Pictures

Reds, yellows, blacks, blues and gold all pop within the actors’ costumes for Andy, closely Sixties-inspired however modern in minimize. Lengthy white flowing sheets flank both facet of the stage the place Warhol prints are suspended, mimicking an ethereal, spacious gallery. The present features like a biggest hits of Warhol’s life, spanning the years between 1959 and 1967, a time when he transcended from a clumsy, shy Andrew Warhola to the iconoclastic darling of contemporary artwork.

Van Sant had initially deliberate to shoot a movie about Warhol’s life within the early Nineties, with River Phoenix set to star within the main function. After the actor died in 1993, the mission by no means materialised. Andy, ostensibly a brand new mission, was conceived after Lisbon’s Biennial of Modern Arts approached the film-maker with an invite to work collectively. It coincided with the twenty fifth version of the Queer Lisboa movie competition, which screened a retrospective of Van Sant’s movies honouring his contribution to queer cinema over the previous 4 many years.

Andy encompasses a Portuguese solid singing and appearing in English, however that wasn’t at all times the plan. “I needed it to be in Portuguese. However as a result of the play was travelling [to Belgium, Germany and Italy], I believe English was simply the kind of fallback language that will be quite a bit simpler to use to every location. We had been going to initially solid in the USA once we first talked about it. The explanation we didn’t was in all probability simply the way in which issues had been unfolding, with Covid and probably cash as properly.”

All of the solid are aged between 17 and 23, with Warhol performed by Diogo Fernandes, who succeeds in depicting the artist’s ascent from softly spoken, shoe-gazing outsider to the mysterious, platinum-wigged artistic who galvanised the artwork world. Fernandes known as the chance “the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition”.

River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves in My Own Private Idaho, directed by Gus Van Sant in 1991. The director had planned a Warhol biopic with Phoenix.
Legacy … River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves in My Personal Personal Idaho (1991), directed by Gus Van Sant. {Photograph}: Allstar/New Line Cinema

It’s attribute for Van Sant to work with and highlight new, youthful expertise. All through his profession, he has championed rising film-makers similar to Concord Korine and Xavier Dolan. Once I ask him which new artists he finds inspiring, he picks Lil Nas X, whose movies he calls “over-the-top” and “culturally provocative in a sort of nice, superb, in-your-face manner”. He talks about how the world of pop music retains shifting and “rapidly there’s this, like, factor. It’s nearly like when Nirvana confirmed up, everybody’s, like, ‘Oh! We have to take note of them!’ Despite the fact that every week earlier than you had no concept.”

Earlier than the pandemic hit, Van Sant was as a result of shoot The Prince of Trend, a movie a couple of reporter’s go to to the Paris Trend Week’s menswear reveals along with his 13-year-old son. Will Ferrell was slated for the lead function however the mission was derailed by Covid.

It’s a curious time for Van Sant to make the leap to musical theatre. The 1918 influenza pandemic led to seismic modifications within the movie enterprise. The director has hopped between totally different types of storytelling on display, together with an esoteric mini-series for Gucci (Ouverture of One thing that By no means Ended). He refers to a Warhol interview from 1971, the place the artist is satisfied that motion pictures are over: “TV was the place every part was going and he had these concepts that TV is gonna get higher … and all of the folks had been disagreeing with him and it wasn’t true till final 12 months when folks couldn’t go to the theatre. So, he had a manner of seeing, you already know, projecting into the longer term.”

  • Andy is at Portugal’s nationwide theatre, Teatro Nacional D Maria II, till 3 October. Then touring. Gus Van Sant: The Artwork of Making Motion pictures, co-written with Katya Tylevich, is printed on 21 October by Laurence King.

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