PARK CITY, Utah — When in doubt, follow John Malkovich.
It seemed like such a good idea at the time. After all, the pensive star made his name in movies like "In the Line of Fire" and "Con Air" playing brilliant masterminds one step ahead of everyone else. And as he hustled down Main Street, bags of celebrity freebies in one hand and holding a phone to his ear with the other, it sure seemed like he knew what he was doing. If not Malkovich, then who else should a lost Sundance visitor trail? Certainly not "Clerks" director Kevin Smith, possibly auditioning for the role of village idiot as he strolled through 30 degree weather in his trademark shorts, looking like a hipster Richard Simmons.
These are the choices one must make on the main drag of Park City, as common folk mix among the likes of "Matrix" slimeball Joe Pantoliano, wide-eyed "Almost Famous" innocent Patrick Fugit, presidential also-ran Al Gore and one-step-up-from-Fabio beefcake Kevin Sorbo. In this collection of huddled and oft-hassled famous faces (see "Paris Hilton Parties, Steve Carell Plays Against Type As Sundance Buzzes Along"), Malkovich certainly seemed most likely to be headed to the right place (or, even better, to an audition for a jewel-thief movie).
Unfortunately, Malkovich was walking in the wrong direction for the interview sessions of "Art School Confidential," his dark, quirky comedy from the makers of "Ghost World" that built up a considerable buzz on this first Sundance day back from the weekend. As so often happens, frantic last-minute phone calls from overworked publicists confirmed that the location had been moved at the last minute from a "lounge" that was peddling wine to another corporate rental up the street that was instead pimping cold-remedy tablets. With his co-stars forced to pick up the slack, the world may never know whether Malkovich was angrily avoiding the press or simply lost, endlessly wandering the street clutching his swag bags.
"It's dark, like 'Ghost World,' and it's got that geek-chic vision. ... It's quirky, and the characters are very complex," Sophia Myles ("Tristan & Isolde") gushed after the interview location was finally found. Starring alongside Malkovich, Max Minghella and Anjelica Huston in the tale of an untalented artist caught up in a world of mosaics and murder, Myles adds some vivid color as Audrey, a model who exposes herself in more ways than one.
"I was terrified when I first read it and I got to the scene with my character — who's a model at John Malkovich's line-drawing class — and there was nudity," Myles blushes. "I had to have a very, very strong gin and tonic before I did it."
Up the street at a lounge promoting German automobiles, Jessica Biel and Paul Giamatti juggled journalists for "The Illusionist," a hot-commodity film about a bitter magician played by Edward Norton. "The beautiful love story drew me to the film, the possibility of playing a woman from 1900 Vienna, a woman who's an aristocrat; someone who's nothing like I am, personally," Biel said, flashing a smile that could thaw the Sundance chill off any journalist. "It was such a treat."
Illustrating the variety of projects at this year's festival, the Beastie Boys are also in Park City, passing the mic to promote "Awesome: I F---in' Shot That!" an irreverent concert documentary that compiles footage shot by their fans (see "Beastie Boys Concert Flick Filmed By 50 Fans With Digital Cameras"). "The idea was that we gave out cameras to 50 audience members that we contacted over the Internet," Mike D said, surrounded by his bandmates. "They had to say what section they were in, so that we could look at a seating chart and have it all spread out throughout the arena. ... We thought for sure at least a few people would keep the cameras, but everybody returned them."
"There was one guy who just kept going up to people and saying 'C'mon, get excited and get on the DVD!' " Adam "MCA" Yauch laughed when asked about one overzealous cameraman. "He was like directing his own section."
Continuing the onslaught of films as diverse as Quentin Tarantino's Netflix queue, Monday saw heavy promotional pitches for everything from the "Ryan Gosling smokes crack" teacher drama "Half Nelson," to Michel Gondry's trippy "The Science of Sleep" (which was quickly snapped up by Warner independent Pictures) to a documentary about Rosie O'Donnell going on a gay cruise. To top it all off, the eternally baby-faced Fugit was happy to discuss his "crappy" film.
"It takes place in the suicide afterlife, where people are physically incapable of smiling," Fugit said, unleashing an ironic grin while discussing "Wristcutters: A Love Story." "It's all bleached out; all the colors are crappy. It's the real world, just crappier. You still have to pay rent, and you still have a job." The flick, which features Tom Waits as a crusty afterworld shepherd, made an impression on audiences with a look as original as the film's cult-ready premise.
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Speaking of a desire to end it all, the Sunday/ Monday overnight featured several significantly bizarre events that allowed celebrities of varying social status to blow off steam. At a local club offering karaoke, Jack Osbourne crooned Celine Dion's "Titanic" theme, "My Heart Will Go On," Benji Madden covered Enrique Iglesias' "Hero" and Eve took a turn on the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)." Nearby, Adrien Grenier's band Honey Brothers attempted to rock the house, while another concert by none other than Sharon Stone conspicuously vanished from festival schedules.
For unadulterated celebrity gawking, it was hard to beat the poker tournament that featured nearly 50 familiar faces, including Dave Navarro and Carmen Electra, Gina Gershon, Shannon Elizabeth and seemingly every actor who has ever appeared on "That '70s Show" (with the exception of the two who have better things to do). Then again, with first prize being a condominium rumored to be worth a million bucks, maybe Ashton and Topher should have booked themselves a flight.
The highlight of the evening, however, came about when a waitress who slightly resembled Lindsay Lohan was accidentally invited to a gifting lounge by a confused corporate sponsor. In this crazed environment of hard-partying thespians, card-sharking TV stars and alcohol-fueled nude scenes, it seemed only appropriate that fake Lindsay should accept the invite to go and get "Fully Loaded" as well.
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