Diverse crowd descending on Sundance

Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:41am EST
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By Steven Zeitchik and Gregg Goldstein

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Sundance will bring a reliable cast of characters when it opens Thursday. Actor Sam Rockwell will hobnob at the Riverhorse restaurant in Park City. Festival chief Robert Redford will endorse indie film at the Eccles theater. Dealmaker John Sloss will manage wee-hour buyer visits to his condo.

But this year's festival will bring a few sights that might make seasoned attendees drop their badges. A number of unlikely Sundance types -- from big studio producers to a television production banner to the son of a former Disney CEO -- are making their way to the Utah ski resort.

Sundance, the specialty world's blend of trade show and high school reunion, always brings together an unlikely mix. Partying college students, European directors, swag culture and specialty execs all bump up against one another. You might be at a Miramax party and Tara Reid might happen in, grind on the dance floor for five minutes and leave. And you might watch her for a few minutes, then turn back to Miramax Films chief Daniel Battsek and continue your conversation about the auteur theory.

But even by the eclectic standards of Park City, this year will see some unusual players in the fray.

Producer Mark Johnson, best known for such big studio productions as "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "Rain Man," is involved with two films at the festival: the Southern melodrama "Ballast" and the Maria Bello missing-wife saga "Downloading Nancy."

Sacha Gervasi's only film credits are writing the Warner Bros. hairdressing comedy "The Big Tease" and Steven Spielberg's Tom Hanks/Catherine Zeta-Jones vehicle "The Terminal." But he is rolling the dice with no distributor on his directorial debut, the low-budget documentary "Anvil!" -- billed as a nonfiction version of "This Is Spinal Tap."

Big-time Hollywood producers Barry Levinson and Art Linson will be at the festival with the Hollywood spoof "What Just Happened?" starring Robert De Niro. And Rawson Marshall Thurber, who directed the hit comedy "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" and is attached to a big-screen version of "Magnum, P.I.," will unveil "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," a literary adaptation of the Michael Chabon novel.

"Some people might be intrigued by the idea that the guy who did 'Dodgeball' is doing this film," Thurber said. "But I don't think it's necessarily that there are indie directors or studio directors anymore but that there's subject and subject matter, and some is aligned to indies and some to studios."   Continued...

<p>Sam Rockwell arrives for the premiere of the film "Snow Angels" during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 19, 2007. Sundance will bring a reliable cast of characters when it opens Thursday. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>