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"This is like a dream. A girl never picks me up, much less a pretty, rich girl."
Documenting the life of abandoned child Mike Waters, the film details his search for his mother whilst selling his body on the streets to survive. The location for the scenes both at the beginning and end of the movie where River stands on a long road were shot a mere fifteen miles from where he was born in Oregon.
Director, Gus Van Sant had recently experienced success with his Matt Dillon film Drugstore Cowboy. This allowed him to become more ambitious when looking for actors to appear in his next piece of work. He had tried to bring the script to River's attention on several occasions but Iris Burton rejected it fearing what effects playing a drug-taking hustler might have on her client's clean image.
So just before Christmas 1989, Keanu Reeves who had already been approached by the director to play the part of Scott Favor, made the journey on his motorcycle from his home in Canada to Florida to present the treatment to River.
The two actors discussed the project for several months, including the time the pair spent together during the filming of I Love You To Death. Recalled River, "We were driving in a car on Santa Monica Boulevard, and were talking really fast about the whole idea. We were excited. It could have been like a bad dream - a dream that never follows through because no one commits, but we just forced ourselves into it. We said, 'Okay, I'll do it if you do it. I won't do it if you won't.' We shook hands. That was it."
Once committed, River was especially interested in doing this movie in the hope that it would rid him of his teen-idol image. Shortly thereafter Van Sant met River and was surprised by the young star's enthusiasm for the project. "He wanted to know everything there was to know about the movie and what we were planning to do", said Van Sant. "I still find it extraordinary that we were able to make the film for so little money. No-one wanted to touch the film because the first scene involves Mike getting a blowjob, and everyone kept saying no to Idaho. Even when Keanu and River had agreed to do it, it was still tough to get the financing in place."
"It sounds so nice. Wouldn't mind living here..."