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“Restless,” Indeed: The Long, Strange Trip of Gus Van Sant’s Newest Film

"Restless," Indeed: The Long, Strange Trip of Gus Van Sant's Newest Film

Before the production of Gus Van Sant’s newest picture, “Restless” was deemed an awkward title. Eighteen months later, it seems like fate.

Van Sant’s work resists pigeonholing; even so, “Restless” wasn’t an obvious choice to follow “Milk.” The script, Jason Lew’s first, is an adaptation of his play, “Of Winter and Water Birds,” in which a terminally ill teenage girl (Mia Wasikowska) falls for a boy who likes to crash funerals (Henry Hopper). There’s also the ghost of a Japanese WWII kamikaze pilot. (Ryo Kase).

The film’s production team sounded as unlikely as the plot: Lew went to NYU with Bryce Dallas Howard; now Howard would make her producing debut on its feature adaptation, with her dad’s Imagine Entertainment at Columbia Pictures.

Dallas Howard and Van Sant? Sure. But Van Sant, a major studio and one of the industry’s biggest production companies? (Van Sant and Imagine previously made “Psycho,” at Universal Pictures.) Teaming on a teen romance that combines terminal illness and kamikaze ghosts? That’s a combination with the potential for entertaining production meetings, but not for smooth sailing.

This week, Sony Pictures Classics announced what perhaps should have been the case all along: It will handle the distribution of “Restless” in North America this fall — about two years after it began production. With that, indieWIRE takes a look back of what happened along the way.

August 2009: “Restless” is announced as Gus Van Sant’s followup to “Milk.” Initial reports bill it only as a romance with plot specifics “under wraps,” but the script soon leaks. Declares Movieline, “’Restless’ is the most emo love story to ever don black lipstick and listen to The Smiths.”

November 2009: Production begins. However, the film is no longer called “Restless.”

March 2010: The untitled Van Sant romance is in post; Danny Elfman is working on the soundtrack.

April 2010: The untitled Van Sant romance will not premiere in Cannes.

June 2010: The Gus Van Sant film, now called “Restless,” gets a January 28, 2011 release date.

October 2010: Columbia Pictures releases the trailer for “Restless.”

November 2010: Columbia Pictures pulls the film from its January release date.

December 2010: The Sundance Film Festival announces its 2011 lineup, which does not include “Restless.” Anne Thompson says, “It was literally the first film accepted by Sundance last August” and “it’s a teen drama that has all the earmarks of a Sony Pictures Classics release.”

March 2011: Sony Pictures Classics announces that it will release Gus Van Sant’s “Restless” this fall in North America, with Sony Pictures Releasing International distributing the film in the rest of the world. “ ‘Having known and admired Gus’ work for years, we are so pleased to be releasing his newest film, which to our mind, is one of his very best. We are also thrilled to be working with producer Bryce Howard and the impressive team at Imagine,’ states Sony Pictures Classics.” Anticipation is high that it will premiere in Cannes.

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