My Own Private Idaho

September 29th, 1991


My Own Private Idaho

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Two best friends living on the streets of Portland as hustlers embark on a journey of self discovery and find their relationship stumbling along the way.

Release Year: 1991

Rating: 7.0/10 (21,762 voted)

Critic's Score: 77/100

Director: Gus Van Sant

Stars: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo

Surreal character study focusing on the friendship between two male hustlers, Mike and Scott, in Portland, Oregon. They live on the streets, do drugs, and sell themselves to men and women. Mike is quiet, gay and suffers from narcolepsy. Abandoned as a child, he is obsessed with finding his long-lost mother. Scott is the rebellious son of a high-ranking family, who lives this life mostly to embarrass his father. Mike is in love with Scott, who still maintains he is straight and insists that his wild lifestyle on the streets is only temporary. Together, they embark on a quest to find Mike's mother, traveling from Portland to Idaho to Italy, with Scott picking up a beautiful girl along the way.

Writers: William Shakespeare, Gus Van Sant

River Phoenix - Mike Waters
Keanu Reeves - Scott Favor
James Russo - Richard Waters
William Richert - Bob Pigeon
Rodney Harvey - Gary
Chiara Caselli - Carmella
Michael Parker - Digger
Jessie Thomas - Denise
Flea - Budd
Grace Zabriskie - Alena
Tom Troupe - Jack Favor
Udo Kier - Hans
Sally Curtice - Jane Lightwork
Robert Lee Pitchlynn - Walt
Mickey Cottrell - Daddy Carroll

Taglines: It's not where you go, it's how you get there.

Release Date: 29 September 1991

Filming Locations: Maupin, Oregon, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $2,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $68,542 (USA) (6 October 1991) (2 Screens)

Gross: $6,401,336 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

On the rooftop when Mike is waking up and Bob is returning to the city with Budd, Matt Dillon's voice can be heard on a television in the distance. The scene which can be heard is from Drugstore Cowboy, an earlier film by Gus Van Sant.

Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): When Scott is spotted exiting his limo, Bob says, "If it isn't Scottie Favor... dressed in a three-piece suit..." In the next frame Scott walks towards the camera with his Italian wife wearing a double-breasted two-piece suit.

Scott Favor: But how could you see green if it was so dark you could not see your own hand?

User Review

. This road will never end. It probably goes all around the world.


This movie isn't about being, or even about being a hustler. "My Own Private Idaho" is about finding a home. In his finest performance, River Phoenix plays Mike, a narcoleptic street hustler with false memories of a terrific childhood. Mike wants to find his mother and family, but how or why he left them is never discussed. This is a movie that shows life at the lowest rung, and is very similar to Kerouac's "On the Road" and especially John Rechy's "City of Night." (In fact the line about becoming a fairy is straight from "City of Night"). Mike and Scott (Keanu Reeves) are both male prostitutes in Oregon. Why either of them have drifted into this profession is anyone's guess. Scott is clearly not gay, but Mike might be and their relationship is what holds the movie together. The film works on many levels, but does have its flaws. It's faux-Shakespearen scenes make the film drag in the middle. Van Sant directed the movie like a dream, which is what Mike's life basically is.

This is a haunting and very sad tale about friendship and finding a home. The performances, especially Phoenix and Udo Kier and Van Sant's dream-like direction are what you remember. "My Own Private Idaho" may be a flawed film, but in my opinion, it is one of the very best of the '90's.


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