At every Q-and-A session at the Sundance Film Festival, or at least every one where a famous actor is backing the movie he or she made, someone asks The Question.
The Question takes many forms and phrasings, but boils down to this: If you’re such a big star, why are you slumming in an independent movie?
It was a polite variant of The Question that an audience member tossed to Anne Hathaway after the first screening of “Song One,” in which the Oscar winner plays an anthropologist who comes home when her musician brother winds up in a coma.
Hathaway, who is also one of the film’s producers, answered as sweetly as anyone could.
“I like beautiful movies, and I think they come in all shapes and sizes,” she said.
Sometimes, actors will defend their indie choice by finding a similarity between the independent work and his or her well-known role in a blockbuster.
That’s what happened when Mark Ruffalo talked about his role as a manic-depressive father in Maya Forbes’ semi-autobiographical drama “Infinitely Polar Bear.”
Ruffalo, one of the stars of Marvel’s “The Avengers,” described his bipolar character as “the low-budget indie version of the Hulk.”
The main reason actors flock to the sorts of indie films that play Sundance is because that’s where the interesting roles can be found.
Blockbuster movies are, after all, exercises in minimizing risk — and there’s nothing riskier to a producer or casting director than picking an actor who doesn’t already fit the audience’s preconceived notions. That’s why Ray Liotta always plays a mobster or a dirty cop, or why Drew Barrymore always plays winsome romantic interests.
But indie films let actors break out of those cocoons and take chances, because they’re not betting with the house money. In many cases (like Hathaway in “Song One” or Aaron Paul in “Hellion”), the actors are also producers, so they have skin in the game.
Every year at Sundance, particularly in the U.S. Dramatic competition, there are notable performances from actors who wanted to show Hollywood there’s more to them than just the expected. Here are three great ones from this year’s festival:Next Page »