Good will house hunting

Gus Van Sant comes home to Oregon Ñ so may Matt Damon

Filmmaker and director Gus Van Sant, 48, creator of several independent films before achieving more mainstream success lately with 'Good Will Hunting' and 'Finding Forrester,' has quietly slipped back into town.

In November, Van Sant paid $529,000 for a 2,000-square-foot loft in The Gregory building, in the fashionable Pearl District. But the low-key celebrity's purchase is a relatively modest one: luxury penthouses in the massive, art deco-style building have topped out at a cool $1.2 million.

Van Sant, who has nearly always worked outside of Hollywood, lived in Portland from 1983 to 2000 before moving to New York City. His last home in Portland was located in the West Hills, overlooking the city on Southwest Vista Avenue.

In addition to the Gregory purchase, the director is rumored to have sold his farm in central Oregon to leading man Matt Damon. The actor starred in 'Good Will Hunting,' a film directed by Van Sant and written by Damon and actor Ben Affleck.

Van Sant has taken up residence at The Gregory and has been seen around town at various restaurants during the past two weeks. Efforts to reach him through his publicist were unsuccessful.

The director's critically acclaimed early films, including 'Mala Noche,' 'Drugstore Cowboy' and 'My Own Private Idaho,' were often set in Portland's rain-sodden underbelly and featured a doomed romance or search for family.

Damon and Van Sant have worked together most recently on a new movie, 'Gerry,' which was filmed in Argentina and Utah. The film generated a lot of buzz going into the the recent Sundance Film Festival, a film-exhibitor clearinghouse that often serves as the launching pad for art-house films.

'Gerry' tells the story of two friends lost in the desert and utilizes unusually long shots in the course of its 110-minute running time. Reactions to the slow-moving film have been decidedly mixed. Nonetheless, the experimental film's North American rights have been purchased by ThinkFilm, a U.S. distributor and offshoot of Lion's Gate Films.

The film will be shown next week as part of the Portland International Film Festival, screening Feb. 9-10 at the Portland Art Museum's Northwest Film Center.

Mark Urman, head of distribution for ThinkFilm, instantly loved 'Gerry' when he saw it at Sundance and made his interest in the film known to a representative for the William Morris agency, which represents Van Sant.

Reached in New York, Urman said that the trick with 'Gerry' is that it's an unusual film Ñ but a very accessible and comprehensible one.

'There's nothing else in this movie but two guys and a landscape,' he said. 'Not much happens, and they don't do much but try to get un-lost.'

Urman's advice for viewers is to 'change your thermostat. You need to look at this film in a different way. Once you know who 'Gerry' is, you will like 'Gerry' a whole lot.'

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