Scene and heard at Sundance: Festival's cutest couple, catty stars, more

Published January 22, 2014 9:40 am
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Associated Press reporters at the Sundance Film Festival share what's in their notebooks:

LOVE BIRDS AT SUNDANCE • The sweetest couple around Sundance may be Australian actress Teresa Palmer and her husband Mark Webber. Webber, an actor, director and screenwriter, has two films — "Laggies" and "Happy Christmas" — premiering at the festival. Wherever he goes, his pregnant wife has happily followed, snapping photos on her camera phone. The pair was married in December and is expecting a baby in about a month. Because Palmer is too pregnant to fly, they drove from LA to Utah to attend. So were they thinking they might have a "Sundance Baby"? Palmer says yes." We rang up the Salt Lake City hospital to make sure there was an OB/GYN (an obstetrician) available just in case the baby came early," she said.?

— Alicia Rancilio

CATTY STARS • Even celebrities with no movies to promote can find reasons to come to Sundance.

Actor Gilles Marini and reality star Kendra Wilkinson lent their fame to Catdance, the one-night celebration of cat videos held during the Sundance Film Festival.

Marini hosted the brief program Saturday, presenting golden litter scoops to the five amateur filmmakers whose kitty flicks were shown. Cat-video fans can watch the short films online and vote for their favorites (http://www.freshstep.com/catdance). The winning filmmaker will receive $50,000.

A very pregnant Wilkinson donned cat-shaped 3-D glasses to watch the five films, then posed for photos with other pregnant women in attendance.

The event raised funds for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Animal lovers can also support the ASPCA by buying Catdance T-shirts online.

— Sandy Cohen

GLENN CLOSE PLANS RETURN TO THEATER • Glenn Close is returning to theater after more than 15 years — and it won't be in a musical.

"I am planning a play in the fall," Close said in an interview Monday at the Sundance Film Festival, where she's promoting the film "Low Down."

The 66-year-old actress wouldn't say what play she's joining in advance of the official announcement.

"I'm not sure what the producer's plan is. I think he might want more of a cast before," Close said.

However, she hinted: "The world that it is in is a world I know very well. It's just a very complex play. It's very challenging. It's like somebody said, 'A mountain of a play.' I'm not coming back in a musical."

Close, a three-time Tony winner, started in theater before moving to film and TV, including the series "Damages." She last appeared on Broadway in "Sunset Boulevard."

— Ryan Pearson

SERIOUS CAUSE FOR BASS • Lance Bass is hoping his new documentary, "Kidnapped for Christ," will put the spotlight on unscrupulous boarding schools that abuse children in the name of rehabilitating them.

"Kidnapped for Christ" debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival, an alternative film festival running at the same time as the Sundance Film Festival, last week. The film explores a Christian school in the Dominican Republic where frustrated parents sent their children to shape up. The documentary shows abuse the kids suffer, and controversial behavior-modification methods, including attempting to convert gay children to straight.

"I get a lot of things across my desk that I don't attach myself to, but I saw the footage and was like 'Oh, my gosh,'" the former 'N Sync member said. "My jaw dropped. I can't believe that this even existed, and I knew I was called to do something."

Bass, the executive producer of the film, spoke about it at Sunday's Human Rights Campaign party; the HRC is dedicated to advancing the rights and causes of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people.

Bass said the reaction to the film at Slamdance has been overwhelming.

"People have walked out because they are so mad that they actually had to walk out the theater," he said.

Bass is pushing for Congress to regulate these schools and raise awareness of the issue. Besides the documentary, which does not yet have a distributor, there is also the website for the film, kidnappedforchrist.com.

"No one knows about it — and that's really scary to me. I didn't know about it. I've heard of these places, but I really didn't think too much about it," Bass said.

"The big thing is the awareness. We want people to know this is happening, and, yes, some of these schools are good and they do good for kids. But the majority of them are just abusing them, and all we want is regulation."

—Nekesa Mumbi Moody

ILM STRIKES PERSONAL CHORD • Zoe Saldana and Mark Ruffalo explore the effects of mental illness on a family in their movie "The Infinite Polar Bear."

Ruffalo and Saldana play parents, Cameron and Maggie, in the 1970s. After Ruffalo's character loses his job after having a nervous breakdown, the family falls on hard times. Maggie gets accepted into an MBA program out of state and must leave their two daughters in the care of their father.

Saldana said the story struck a chord with her because she lost her own father as a child.

"It sort of had a very powerful impact on me once I read the script because of the whole father and daughters relationship, and that sort of hit home for me," said the actress.

Saturday's premiere marked Ruffalo's eighth film at Sundance.

"I have a history at this place," he explained. "This will be my eighth movie here and the first time I came here was in 1990," he said.

"I didn't have a movie here and I lived in a ski dorm with a bunch of skiers for $30 a night, dreaming about the day that I'd get to go to Sundance with a movie," he laughed, " and here I am eight movies later ... It's cool."

— Alicia Rancilio

KRUGER'S SUNDANCE DEBUT • Diane Kruger made her first trip to the largest U.S. indie film festival for the premiere of "The Better Angels," about a young Abraham Lincoln.

"This is my first time in Sundance. So it seems very crowded and fun," Kruger said Saturday. "It's a really neat resort and the movies are a little bit more independent I guess than the Cannes Film Festival's are. So I'm really excited to be here."

Kruger plays Sarah Lincoln, young Lincoln's stepmother in rural Indiana in 1817. Kruger says she learned a new side of the president.

"What I loved about the script was that yes, it's about Abe Lincoln but it could be about any child who was different, who was curious and who met an adult — in this case Sarah Lincoln who I play — who encouraged him to go to school, who encouraged his talent," she said. "And I loved the message that no matter where you're from or how poor you are, you can be a great man. You can change the world."

The black-and-white film is produced by Terrence Malick and written and directed by frequent Malick collaborator A.J. Edwards.

— The Associated Press

MANIA ON MAIN STREET • One of the perks of Sundance is spotting celebs who stroll among the thick crowds populating Main St. Most celebrities get polite autograph seekers, and are able to walk the strip without being hounded. But when you're Harry Styles of One Direction, just about every step is accompanied by the shrieks of teenage girls. Rushing to jump into a van on Saturday, Styles was followed by a thick crew of young girls, some running across the street to get a glimpse of the British pop singer. The screaming fans pounded on Styles' ride, holding up the singer's exit — and oncoming traffic.

— Jessica Herndon

STAR CHEFS COOK FOR THE STARS • It's not just movie stars at Sundance. Besides the random assortment of music, TV and reality sensations, culinary stars are also in the spotlight.

Competitors from the hit Bravo series "Top Chef" are showcasing their best work at ChefDance, a series of dinners for Sundance attendees, including stars like Kristen Stewart, Elijah Wood and Catherine Keener. On Saturday, chefs Angelo Sosa and Kevin Spraga created a four-course delight that included tomato soup with curry cream and steak with spiced eggplant. "True Blood" star Joe Manganiello, who has a documentary on male strippers at the coinciding film festival Slamdance, was among those chowing down during the lively dinner.

— Nekesa Mumbi Moody

BEAMING DAD • Donald Faison is a proud papa. When asked how his son Rocco with wife CaCee Cobb is doing while Faison is promoting Zach Braff's movie "Wish I Was Here," he was happy to pull out his cell phone to show a photo.

"He's awesome," gushed the 39-year-old actor. Faison already has four other children from previous relationships.


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