Gus Van Sant’s 1989 film Drugstore Cowboy, based on author James Fogle’s autobiographical novel about his lifelong addictions, adventures, and crimes, was an unexpected cult success. However, it did not lead to the publication (authorized, anyway) of Fogle’s other works or more films. 25 years later there is a sequel in the works, Drugstore Cowboy (Backside of a Mirror), written by Drugstore Cowboy screenwriter Daniel Yost with input from Fogle during his last years.
“The original film is almost all Fogle (though, of course, beautifully directed, acted, and photographed), as it came from a novel he sent me with the story intact and lots of dialogue,” Yost says. “The sequel started with an idea that came to me when I woke up one morning and couldn’t resist. I wrote it, then asked Jim to send me a couple of things, one being the experience of going through withdrawal. On screen this will be harrowing, rivaling what Gene Hackman’s character went through in French Connection II.”
It was Yost who first introduced then-fledgling filmmaker Van Sant to Fogle’s work and he has been an ongoing champion for its publication and development ever since. Over the years Fogle sent Yost several novels and short stories, but prior to meeting Gus Van Sant Yost was unable to get Fogle’s short stories published anywhere, even after editing and tidying them up himself.
Fogle could have become a Burroughs-like anti-hero or even a triumphant artist like Jim Carroll in 1989 upon Drugstore Cowboy’s release. He certainly had the opportunity to makeover his existence and enjoy the rewards of minor celebrity. But despite multiple attempts at clean living, his self-destructive streak remained. Much to the frustration of his friends and family, Fogle became something of a folk hero in the Northwest, with multiple arrests for (of course) expertly robbing pharmacies, with the last two times occurring in Redmond, Washington and Seattle in 2010 and 2011. All of his stories and novels were written in prison, where he spent nearly fifty of his seventy-five years, and he found it impossible to write elsewhere. At the time of his death in prison in 2012 he had been writing another novelized autobiography.
In an email interview Daniel Yost recently answered a few questions for Dangerous Minds about his experiences working with James Fogle and his plans for Drugstore Cowboy (Backside of a Mirror).
More after the jump…