A director who is capable of crafting both deeply unconventional independent films and mainstream crowd-pleasers, Gus Van Sant has managed to carve an enviable niche for himself in Hollywood. In the years that followed his debut in 1985 with Mala Noche, Van Sant established himself as one of the most vital directorial voices in the U.S.
The son of a traveling salesman who rapidly worked his way up the corporate ladder into middle-class prosperity, Van Sant was born in Louisville, KY, on July 24, 1952. Due to his father's job, the family moved continuously during Van Sant's childhood. One constant in the director's early years was his interest in painting and Super-8 filmmaking; while still in school he began making semi-autobiographical shorts costing between 30 and 50 dollars. Van Sant's artistic leanings took him to the Rhode Island School of Design in 1970, where his introduction to various avant-garde directors inspired him to change his major from painting to cinema.