PARK CITY, Utah — This year MTV is covering the Sundance Film Festival from every conceivable angle — including an ongoing diary of our news team’s experiences at the fest.
January 19, 10:05 a.m.
The first full-on day of Sundance is underway and the full MTV News team is now here (albeit with some luggage temporarily missing). My first official Sundance interview? A shoot with Nick Nolte and the director of the opening-night Sundance film “Chicago 10.”
I take a quick walk to pick up my third badge for the festival. These silly colorful things hang around my neck, conveying some sort of special powers. I ask the friendly woman handing me this latest supposedly super-exclusive pass where this one allows me to go. “Common public areas.” I see. So I couldn’t go there before?
I cram for Nick Nolte. Got to be prepared for Nick. Remember that mug shot? I don’t want to get him upset.
My video shooter, Matt Elias, and I arrive at our scheduled time at something called “The Airborne Lounge” to talk with Nick and the director, and 15 minutes later, we’re ushered into the space where we can shoot the interview: a hallway that looks like the infamous cellar (where Bruce Willis and Ving Rames were held) in “Pulp Fiction.”
For a variety of reasons I’d probably get into trouble for detailing, Nick Nolte, I’m told, will not be talking to us. I’m quickly finding that a lot of Sundance is about improvisation. Schedules and locations change by the minute — got to roll with it.
One hour and 15 minutes late and minus one Oscar-nominated actor, my first official Sundance interview gets underway. Brett Morgen, the director of “Chicago 10” proves to be an awesome guy. He lights up when he sees we’re with MTV and turns on the charm to hype his entertaining new documentary about war protestors that were prosecuted after the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He looks me square in the eye before the interview and practically implores me to get the word out for his film.
MTV News writer Shawn Adler tells me he just saw “Rocket Science,” a flick debuting here that I’ve been eyeing for a while. I couldn’t make the screening and I’m deeply sorry I didn’t now. He says it’s fantastic, very much in the vein of Wes Anderson’s flicks. That’s not faint praise in my book.
I attend my first Sundance premiere party for the new David Gordon Green flick, “Snow Angels.” I’m a big fan of Green, a true independent slowly edging into more mainstream fare, and muster up enough courage to say hi but not enough to say anything to Emile Hirsch (“Alpha Dog”), who sits next to me for about 15 minutes. Kind of awkward. Sam Rockwell walks by me. This is the third time I’ve seen him in Park City since spotting him at the airport in New York. This is getting weird.
I arrive at the theater playing an 11:30 p.m. premiere showing of “The Ten.” This one’s also at the top of my list as it features a great ensemble (Winona Ryder, Adam Brody, Paul Rudd) and comes from the director of cult-favorite “Wet Hot American Summer.” Since I’m early and I now realize this is the premiere (dead giveaway? Barricades and photographers), I decide to get out my trusty tape recorder and grab a few quick interviews (remember how I said Sundance was about improvisation?). Gretchen Mol stops to chat. Winona does not. Damn it! But Adam Brody gives me a couple of minutes until he tells me he’s getting cold. I sympathize. Next time I’ll bring gloves.
January 20, 12:20 a.m.
I and about 40 other irate moviegoers are turned away at the door of the theater. Even though we have tickets, we’re not to be let in. It’s just too crowded, they tell us. I go to bed very grumpy.
I have not seen a film here in over 24 hours. The solution? An early-morning screening of “An American Crime” starring Catherine Keener, Ellen Page (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) and James Franco. One cool thing about a lot of these screenings is that the filmmakers and cast often introduce them to the audience. Here the director tells us ominously we’re about “to go down the rabbit hole.” And the lights dim.
Wow. That’s some rabbit hole. This film is as dark as can be, telling the true story of a teenager (Page) who was beaten and tortured by a woman (Keener) who took her and her sister in. There are rumors going around that someone passed out at the screening of the film yesterday.
I’ve just finished interviewing Keener, Page and Franco. James Franco lightens the discussion about the weighty subject of the film by saying how much he enjoyed making out with Keener. I can’t tell if Catherine is playfully annoyed with him or truly annoyed. After the interview, Franco asks me if he can keep the MTV News microphone cube. I’m pretty sure he’s joking.
Time to interview the cast of “The Ten.” Paul Rudd hands me a breath mint. He also hands one to Famke Janssen, so I don’t take it personally. When I introduce myself, Winona Ryder seems excited that her real last name is the same as mine. Our special moment lasts about five seconds and then its back to business. I proceed to ask her about her sex scene in “The Ten” with a ventriloquist’s dummy. The things I do for MTV.
Within 10 seconds of walking on Main Street, I pass by Scott Speedman and Christian Slater. It’s snowing for the first time.
I catch a screening of another kind of depressing flick called “The Good Life.” I’m ready for a comedy.
Exhausted and behind on work, I go back to my hotel room. I have a bunch of stories (like this one!) left to file, so it’s a night in for me.
January 21, 9:15 a.m.
My second day in a row that begins with a movie — this time it’s “Snow Angels,” that David Gordon Green flick with Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale I’ve been talking about. Great news! The beginning is wonderfully funny and sweet! Finally! What a breath of fresh air.
OK, one hour after it’s begun and this movie is no longer funny and sweet. The second half is dark and disturbing — tragically so. Still, overall it’s great, the best flick I’ve seen here so far.
I’m in the middle of a crazy-busy lounge where I’m supposed to interview a ton of people. These are the people I see in this room in the space of mere minutes: Josh Hartnett, Teri Hatcher, Alan Alda and Richard Gephardt. Now that’s what I call a dinner party.
In insanely quick succession I interview everyone from Chris Klein and Zooey Deschanel to Sam Rockwell. Yes, Rockwell and I finally talk. Neither of us chooses to mention that I’ve been inadvertently following him since Wednesday. Sam spends a good portion of the interview singing and laughing with co-star Vera Farmiga (“The Departed”).
As I’m leaving the lounge, I see “Almost Famous” star Patrick Fugit run into the actor who played him as a kid in the flick, Michael Angarano. Fugit teases him, asking if he’s been working out lately as he grabs his shoulders.
I conclude a whirlwind day of interviews with a chat with Ryan Reynolds and 8-year-old superstar in the making Elle Fanning. Why is she more poised than I am? I tell myself it’s because I’ve just interviewed 15 people about four films in three hours.
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