July 15, 2005

Sundance feels heat of pop culture hype

By Gregg Kilday

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Every January, Robert
Redford comes down from the Wasatch Mountains to Park City,
home of his annual Sundance Film Festival, to deliver a
familiar mantra: The festival is all about the filmmakers and
their films. Ignore all the hype.

But try as Redford and his colleagues might to maintain the
festival's purity -- and for those who truly care about the
films, there is always plenty to discuss -- there's still no
denying that a veritable carnival of hustlers, from desperate
young actors to smooth corporate PR types, now pitch camp up
and down Park City's Main Street.

For Sundance, far from being an insular industry event, has
crossed over into the popular culture.

On Wednesday night, for example, on the CBS reality show
"The Cut," an "Apprentice" wannabe in which contestants vie to
win a job with Tommy Hilfiger, the designer surprised two of
the contestants by jetting off with them on an overnight trip
to Sundance. The trio were limousined to the premiere of Don
Roos' "Happy Endings," which opened this year's fest. But there
was little talk of the movie itself as the reality folk mingled
at the postpremiere party with the movie's stars Lisa Kudrow
and Tom Arnold. (The main lesson learned: When chatting up
celebrities, ask them plenty of questions about themselves and
don't bother them by boasting of your own accomplishments.)

On Sunday night, HBO's "Entourage" will go on a much more
substantive road trip to Sundance. As the series' second season
has developed, rising young actor Vince (Adrian Grenier) is
angling to be cast in the superhero movie "Aquaman," but first
he must win the approval of the movie's director, James
Cameron. To seal the deal, Eric (Kevin Connolly), Vince's
manager and best friend, secures a promise that Cameron will
check out Vince's latest movie, a four-hour indie effort called
"Queens Boulevard," when it debuts at Sundance.

"It was a big sell to HBO to get them to allow us to (shoot
in Park City)," says Doug Ellin, "Entourage" creator and
executive producer. "But it was extremely important because our
lead character made an independent film last year, and Sundance
or Cannes is where it would premiere. We planned the whole
season so we would be there at its halfway point."

The producers got the necessary permits from Park City and
apprised Sundance officials of their game plan. "We wanted to
be sure we wouldn't get in the way of the festival, and we
wanted to make sure we didn't offend them in any way because
we're not making fun of the festival itself," Ellin adds.

In the end, the cast and crew spent three days filming
exteriors in and around the festival for the episode written by
Rob Weiss and Stephen Levinson. For a three-minute tracking
shot following Vince and his posse down Main Street that
culminates in a snowball fight, director Julian Farino didn't
close down the street but simply caught the action on the fly,
blending into the crowd.

Cameron himself makes an appearance -- he actually filmed
his one day in an interior set in L.A. and enjoyed himself
enough that he offered to shoot a second day, which will appear
later in the season. And the plot line also involves a volatile
Harvey Weinstein-like character called Harvey Weingard.
According to Ellin, Weinstein was approached about playing
himself but declined, saying he was not an actor.

But it falls to Vince's agent, Ari Gold -- played by Jeremy
Piven, who was nominated for a supporting actor in a comedy
series Emmy on Thursday -- to deliver the final judgment on the
Sundance experience. As he proclaims, "You don't come to
Sundance for the snow, you come for the heat."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter