The film's screenplay was written by newcomer Jason Lew, based upon his original stage play "Of Winter and Water Birds."
"This film is a quietly epic coming-of-age story," Bryce Dallas Howard said in a statement. "It captures the profoundly defining turning point of a young person's life with stark realism, irreverent humor, and intense emotion. I think that Gus was drawn to this story because he has an uncanny ability to convey the complexities of youth and outsiders. For this is, above all else, the journey of an outsider."
Van Sant's films include "Milk," "Drugstore Cowboy," "My Own Private Idaho," "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues," "To Die For," "Psycho," "Finding Forrester," "Gerry" and "Elephant."