Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot press conference with Gus Van Sant, Joaquin Phoenix and Udo Kier
Based on the autobiography of prolific cartoonist John Callahan, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot traces the aftermath of the car accident which rendered him a quadriplegic. The artist begins to draw cartoons as a creative outlet for his frustration and depression, re-discovering his joie de vivre and finding the strength to begin the process of getting clean. We spoke to director Gus Van Sant and stars, Joaquin Phoenix and Udo Kier, about bringing John’s story to life.
How did you begin adapting John Callahan’s life?
Gus Van Sant: We really tried to get as close as possible to John Callahan’s autobiography. There’s a whole lot of information in the book and we focused on the accident and the recovery chapters. He was a storyteller and as a storyteller he would change a lot of things, so we were naturally suspicious as to whether he experienced the things the way he recounted them. I think they were all based on reality but he liked to spice things up a lot, so the version in our film is with the spice. We took advantage of the spiciness; we’re not even sure if it’s real space or made up spice.
Was the super-fast wheelchair true to life?
GVS: I’m not sure if he had a souped-up wheelchair but it was definitely fast. He would go very fast down the street – 20 mph down 21st or 23rd avenues in Portland, in front of store fronts – and he often had accidents. I thought it was his way of having fun. He couldn’t skateboard or ski, but he could go very fast in his wheelchair.
Joaquin, what was it like working with Gus?
Joaquin Phoenix: I think every movie you work on feels different even if you’re very familiar with the person you’re working with. There are some qualities that Gus has that are consistent; mostly that he makes you feel really comfortable. It’s the least stressful set I’ve ever worked on. I think we had a lot of fun working on this film.
Do you enjoy film festivals?
JP: When I go to film festivals, I just show up and I do press. That’s it and so I usually hate film festivals. Last night, Gus was doing the Berlinale Talents program so I went along to watch and I saw all these young filmmakers who were interested in the process. I gained a real appreciation for film festivals,so I was grateful for that experience.
How was the experience for you, Udo?
Udo Kier: For me it was very important because I first met Gus here at the Berlinale for the release of his first film Mala Noche, and he invited me to be in My Own Private Idaho. Of course when you’re German, your character name is Hans. We worked with River Phoenix of course, one of the greatest talents of our generation. It was a pleasure to work with River’s brother Joaquin, and I was once again Hans. I imagine the character never left Portland. He lost his hair and became an alcoholic. Joaquin delivered such an amazing performance; I haven’t seen anything like it in a long time.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot does not have a UK release date yet. Read our review here.
Read more reviews and interviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival 2018.
Watch the trailer for Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot here: