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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cesar Padilla meets his That Guy...

I just saw Paranoid Park, director Gus Van Sant's latest film set in a skate park, and I have to say I'm on the fence. He's been on my mind a lot recently. While discussing Paranoid Park with friends, I was berated for missing out on Elephant, his Columbine film. (To be honest, I have missed most of his recent work—clearly to my detriment). While I still have not seen Gerry, I'm convinced it is the most important film of the decade.) So while I try to be a purist and see films on the big screen, I decided to watch Elephant at home. It was absolutely sublime. I was enthralled by it, and its utter lack of morality yet elegance of execution. No other director in recent memory has been able to capture the complexity of modern youth so beautifully.

So when open casting calls were sent out a couple of months ago in San Francisco for his upcoming film on slain Bay Area politician and 70's gay-rights activist Harvey Milk, I went with script in hand. I, too, want to direct feature films—even writing two horror scripts of late—and I, too, am uninterested in morality. I thought Gus would understand what I am trying to do. I figured, with all his Good Will bullshit, that he would get me. I am, after all, a bad-ass Latino faggot raised in late 70's- early 80's Southeast Los Angeles on punk rock and horchata. I have directed a couple of award-winning short films and 3 music videos for Mexican Zapatista death metal band Brujeria.

As he sat alone in the school auditorium, and as his people busily photographed the eager young actors who came, I took the opportunity to approach him. I told him about my vintage store, Cherry, and how we had provided a substantial amount of men's clothing for Factory Girl, I'm Not There and American Gangster (yes, that is Russell Crowe wearing my vintage Levi 517s throughout the film). I suggested they call the store if they were need of period apparel and he introduced me to his costume designer. It is after this that I asked him If I could leave my script with him to read, to which he politely replied, "No."

For anyone who has ever wanted to create, there is That Guy, the dick who says no after you've summoned all your courage, the dick who watches as you walk away more hardened and vulnerable than you've ever felt before. In a way, I respect him more for his brutal honesty, but for me, Gus Van Sant is That Guy.

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