Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Gus Van Sant Says Robin Williams Ignited 'Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Gus Van Sant Says Robin Williams Ignited 'Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot'

Article excerpt

Van Sant film ignited by Robin Williams

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TORONTO - More than 20 years ago, actor Robin Williams asked director Gus Van Sant to help develop a film on controversial cartoonist John Callahan.

It seemed a good fit: the two were already working together on the Oscar-winning "Good Will Hunting," and Van Sant grew up in Callahan's home city of Portland and knew of him.

But after submitting a couple of drafts and recording many hours of interviews with Callahan at his home, nothing came of it.

"It was disappointing that it wasn't going ahead," Van Sant, a two-time Oscar nominee for "Milk" and "Good Will Hunting," recalled in a recent phone interview.

"By 2005 I think John joked we were all going to be dead by the time this film was made."

Prophetic words.

Callahan died in 2010, followed by Williams in 2014 -- but the film lives on.

Opening Friday in Toronto and Vancouver, "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot" stars Joaquin Phoenix as Callahan, an alcoholic who was left a quadriplegic after a car crash during a night of hard partying in Portland. Through rehab, he learned to draw using his hands.

Callahan's irreverent cartoons caused a sensation and polarized readers with their combination of black humour and depictions of disability.

Jonah Hill co-stars as Callahan's Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Rooney Mara plays his physiotherapist, and Jack Black plays his drinking buddy.

Other cast members include Beth Ditto and Kim Gordon, who play members of Callahan's AA support group.

Van Sant directed and co-wrote the Amazon Studios film, which was inspired by Callahan's 1989 memoir.

Van Sant said Williams had optioned the film rights to the book, feeling a connection to the material because of his close friendship with the late actor Christopher Reeve, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a horse-riding accident. …

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