We haven’t reported on the possible Gus Van Sant adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid test in a while. When Beaks first reported on the project, he sniped a bit at Van Sant’s ability to nail emotion and empathy, and worried that collaborations with writer Dustin Lance Black could distance him from empathetic connections more than anything else.
In the interim, Paranoid Park and Milk (the latter written by Black) were the most emotional films the director has made in years. Now the idea of the two creators collaborating to adapt Wolfe’s pioneering work of New Journalism sounds a bit more interested. (Especially when shot by Milk‘s Harris Savides, which is apparently the plan.)
The Playlist noticed a piece in Rolling Stone that fleshes out the thing as it currently stands. Gus Van Sant apparently wanted Heath Ledger to play Ken Kesey, author and leader of the drugged Merry Pranksters. With that an impossibility, he’s got Woody Harrelson in mind for Kesey, and Jack Black for another role. The RS article is unclear on the intentions there, and says Black’s people had no comment.
But Harrelson met with Kesey before the latter died, according to Jerry Garcia’s former wife Caroline. She heartily endorses him for the role, and suggests that “Black might be a fit for “The Mad Chemist,” the infamous LSD impresario Owsley “Bear” Stanley, who launched an untold number of minds into outer space and was an artist and early sound engineer for the [Greatful] Dead.”
Gus Van Sant has always been a filmmaker with good, interesting instincts, and his recent work reaffirms his ability to cast a picture. Even so, on the surface I’m not wild about this idea, but neither am I certain that Wolfe’s book has a great relevance today. Wolfe’s subjective journalism has been so thoroughly digested by modern media that this could easily be a charming anachronism. But there’s room to comment, too, on Wolfe’s intentions, practices, and the legacy of his work, as well as the upon the value of the Prankster’s antics as cultural icons and performance artists.