WHEELING AND DEALING: The Sundance Film Festival is, after all, about movies, and the deal-making reached a peak Monday night when a handful of the most well-received features were snatched up by studios, including the late Adrienne Shelley-directed drama “Waitress,” starring Keri Russell, which went to Fox Searchlight for $5 million, along with the Manhattan-set thriller “Joshua,” starring Vera Farmiga, for $4 million. “Clubland,” starring Brenda Blethyn, went to Warner Independent for $4 million, the same price the Weinstein Co. paid for “Grace Is Gone,” starring John Cusack. Harvey and Bob‘s shingle also plunked down $1 million on Sunday for the stylish and risqué female power dramedy “Teeth,” starring newcomer Jess Weixler and directed and written by actor Mitchell Lichtenstein, son of painter Roy.
KENNEDY CHARM: Most of the documentary and feature fare at Sundance dealt with depressing and/or political subject matter, but several quality pieces stood out, including Rory Kennedy‘s documentary, “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” about violence in the military prison, which airs on HBO next month. Producer Kennedy, a Sundance veteran, was gracious and personable, and unlike many stars who touched down for a day or two at most, is staying at the festival for its entire 10-day run. “You don’t want to provoke such emotions all the time, but I think this issue is really important and it deserves time and attention,” she said. Commenting on her storytelling instincts, she surmised, “Well, part of that’s probably the Irish in me. My family likes to tell stories and I grew up around a lot of storytellers.” Mother Ethel was on hand at her premiere screening, as was husband Mark Bailey, who directed the film.
WORTH WATCHING: Hotly anticipated screenings include the controversial Dakota Fanning vehicle “Hounddog”; “The Good Night,” Jake Paltrow‘s feature directing debut starring sister Gwyneth and Penélope Cruz; “Black Snake Moan,” starring Christina Ricci and Justin Timberlake, and “Chapter 27,” with Jared Leto and Lindsay Lohan.
This story first appeared in the January 24, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
ON THE WAVES: The thermometer barely broke 20 degrees in Park City, Utah, where not only Sundance, but the Slamdance and the X-Dance Action Sports Film Festival kicked off. Naturally, Huntington Beach, Calif., surf labels Quiksilver and Roxy are bringing California sun and fun to the mountains. Roxy is breaking out of its brother brand Quiksilver’s shadow by screening its first movie at X-Dance: “Shimmer,” a 40-minute softly lit ode to Sofia Mulanovich, Lisa Andersen and other top surfer chicks shredding waves on pink-checked surfboards. Quiksilver is showing a documentary titled “Letting Go,” about surf legend Kelly Slater. Looks like Slater still has the moves, judging from his buddyfest with Cameron Diaz in Oahu.
HELPING HANDS: Charity has been the p.c. buzzword for many celebs here, who are all too conscious of the town’s nickname: Swagdance. At the Premiere magazine lounge, Sienna Miller said, “I just feel like I have been given so much, it is important for me to give back whenever possible.” Miller and Winona Ryder, among others, donated swag to be auctioned off in an autographed bag, with proceeds going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and most other suites had the same angle. At the Luxury Lounge’s Neutrogena Helioplex Sun Studio, Kevin Bacon, Laura Linney and Sam Rockwell drew pictures of the sun to be auctioned on eBay to benefit the American Cancer Society. Of course, the charities might be benefiting from the Internal Revenue Service’s tougher new rules on taxing swag.
Still, several apparel companies were eager to help Sundance filmgoers stay covered up by handing out freebies, including Hanes, Nau, Habitual, AG Adriano Goldschmied, Blue Genes and Desert Blue Premium Jeans. Still, the fashion presence is smaller than in previous years. One brand doing a major push here is American Eagle’s new Aerie line, based in a spa at Village at the Lift, adjacent to Fred Segal Beauty’s swagtique. Los Angeles publicist Kari Feinstein scaled back her gift suite to the 1,400-square-foot Alpine Internet Cybercafé, which is a third of the size of the private house she used last year. Leeron Tal, who is organizing Luxestar’s Winter Warm-Up Retreat, blamed the IRS. “A lot of people are afraid of the IRS,” she said. Still, StriVectin said it spent “several hundred thousand dollars” to run a pop-up shop and VIP lounge in a 2,500-square-foot venue on Main Street, where average folk can buy its $135 signature antiwrinkle cream and boldfaced names can receive a complimentary Isaac Mizrahi-designed tote stuffed with more than $600 in goodies.