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WWDStyle issue 02/28/2011

The stream of art-slash-Oscar parties continued on Friday night as jack-of-all-trades James Franco and director Gus Van Sant celebrated the opening of their show “Unfinished” at the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills.

This story first appeared in the February 28, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The duo took over half of the gallery and split it into two screening rooms for the films “Endless Idaho” and “My Own Private River,” which Franco had fashioned from dailies and other footage from Van Sant’s 1991 movie “My Own Private Idaho.”

“When we made ‘Milk’ Gus told me he still had all the old film he shot from the movie, and I was like, ‘This is a treasure chest.’ I had been obsessed with the original since I was in high school,” recalled Franco, who then convinced Gucci to sponsor the project, which involved digitizing hundreds of hours of film.

“So I had all this footage, like, in my computer,” said Franco. “It took me months to edit it.”

Van Sant approved of the final product.

“I think he did a better job with it than I did,” the director said. For his part, Van Sant, who studied painting and cinema at Rhode Island School of Design, painted eight large scale watercolor portraits of young men who recall characters in “My Own Private Idaho.”

The double billing attracted artists and actors alike including Adrien Brody, Ione Skye, Ben Lee, Bill Paxton, China Chow, Ron Howard and Bryce Dallas Howard, Maggie Grace and Michael Stipe, who wrote the score for “My Own Private River.”

Franco’s parents Betsy and Doug were among those who arrived early.

“We don’t get to see him much otherwise,” said Doug.

Between being an Oscar nominee, co-host of the show, painter, performance artist, film editor, shot story author and video director (he’s set to direct two videos for Stipe, one of which will use footage his crew shot
over Oscar weekend) Franco joked, “Now there’s nothing I haven’t done. After this weekend I’m committing suicide.”

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