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A scene from "Low Down." Courtesy Sundance Institute
Sundance photos: Story attracts stars to ‘Low Down’

First Published Jan 19 2014 01:26 pm • Last Updated Jan 21 2014 07:53 pm

Here’s a screen pairing you wouldn’t expect: Glenn Close and Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

But here they were onstage at the Eccles Theatre, standing side by side along with Elle Fanning and the makers of "Low Down," which had its premiere Sunday at 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

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At a glance

“Low Down”

U.S. Dramatic

HHH

Powerful performances by John Hawkes, Elle Fanning and Glenn Close grace “Low Down,” director Jeff Preiss’ unvarnished depiction of a jazz musician’s heroin addiction seen through the eyes of his daughter.

Fanning plays Amy-Jo Albany, who co-wrote the film (with Topher Lilian) based on her memoir, at ages 13 and 15 — living in mid-’70s Hollywood with her father, acclaimed pianist Joe Albany (John Hawkes), who dodges his parole officer and tries to fight off his desire to shoot up.

The movie’s narrative meanders through the offbeat characters Amy-Jo encounters in their rundown apartment building — hookers and pornographers and other musicians.

The movie’s strength comes from the byplay between Hawkes’ troubled Joe and Fanning’s observant Amy-Jo, and a winning turn by Close as Joe’s sympathetic but fed-up mother.

“Low Down” screens again at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival: Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Salt Lake City; Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Library Center Theatre, Park City; Thursday at noon at the Yarrow Hotel Theatre, Park City; Friday at 8:30 a.m. at the Prospector Square Theatre, Park City; and Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Sundance Screening Room, Sundance resort.

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What brought them together was the harrowing true story of Amy-Jo Albany, who wrote the memoir of life growing up with her father, Joe Albany, an acclaimed jazz pianist who battled heroin addiction and incarceration.

Fanning portrays Amy-Jo at ages 13 and 15, opposite John Hawkes as Joe Albany. Close plays Amy-Jo’s grandmother, and Flea plays a fellow musician also struggling with addiction.

At the Q-and-A after the screening, Fanning, Flea and Close all talked about what drew them to the project: Amy-Jo Albany’s story.

Close had a lunch meeting with Albany (who co-wrote the script with Topher Lilian) and the film’s director, Jeff Preiss. Then she read Albany’s memoir and was moved by "the authenticity of what she wrote."

(By the way, during the film, Close sat next to her longtime friend Robert Redford. Close has been involved with Redford’s Sundance Institute, and of course they both starred in "The Natural.")

"I’d never played a real person before," Fanning said, noting the pressure of having that person on set every day. "We became really good friends. … I could ask her anything, any detail."

Flea, best known as the bass player for Red Hot Chili Peppers, comes from a family of musicians, so he understood the characters. "The jazz musicians of [the 1970s] were in a very unusual circumstance," said Flea, who is also one of the film’s executive producers. "They had this incredible skill and no one gave a s---."




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