Hollywood on Ice

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell are stuck In Bruges, which kicked off Sundance last night.
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PARK CITY, Utah -- The Sundance Film Festival hadn't even officially begun Thursday when word circulated through the 4-below Park City climes that the Directors Guild of America had reached a tentative, three-year deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers -- or NAMBLA, as David LettermanJon Stewart called 'em a few days back. So, of course, talk turned immediately to the Writers Guild of America and whether it too could come to an agreement with the AMPTP or remain on strike. General consensus? The DGA deal likely won't end the WGA strike any time soon. Said one high-profile producer who'd probably prefer to remain anonymous, "I'll take the over on the WGA settling this quickly. Likely another month, at least."

Which means plenty to ordinary folk, much less the motion-picture bizzers buzzing around the snow-capped mountains getting more snow-capped by the second. When a bartender at the Texas Stadium Skybox Bar at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport yesterday found out one of her customers was headed to Sundance, she said -- pleaded, actually -- "Oh, please, tell the writers to get back to work already." (Big Lost fan, that girl.) Most likely, figure some acquisitions execs and producers to whom I spoke yesterday, the WGA would love to drag this out till at least the Academy Awards ceremony next month, which could go cloudy because of stars refusing to cross the picket line. "Because then," says one producer, "everyone in the world will give a shit." At which point someone pointed out the shooting of President Reagan on March 30, 1981, delayed the Oscar broadcast that year by a single day. The show will always go on.

At the moment, it doesn't appear film buyers are looking to devour the 100-plus features making their debuts at Sundance. Despite early word that there'd be a feeding frenzy, some acquisitions executives said yesterday they were actually going to hold their forks; there will be no buying of crap simply because it featured a few well-known actors or a marketable director. (Yeah, but that's what they say every year.) It'll remain business as usual, for now, with distributors lining up for such presumably bountiful bows as the adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's Choke, starring Sam Rockwell (star of one of last year's Sundance pick-ups, the DOA Joshua), and Assassination of a High School President with Mischa Barton and Bruce Willis.

Several films entered the fest having already been tapped for the dance: HBO announced Thursday it had picked up director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' The Black List, in which National Public Radio's Elvis Mitchell (former New York Times and Fort Worth Star-Telegram film critic) interviews Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sean Combs, Toni Morrison, Colin Powell, Chris Rock, Al Sharpton, Keenen Ivory Wayans and some dozen-plus others about what it means to be black in America. Also getting picked up pre-fest: closing-night movie CSNY Deja Vu, director Neil Young's (yes, you read that right) doc about them golden oldies; Sugar, from the same folks responsible for 2006 Sundance fave Half Nelson; and a handful of other lesser-known titles.

The opening-night film came bearing a long-secured distribution deal: In Bruges -- a guilt-ridden hitmen-in-hiding comedy with Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes -- goes into limited release in just three weeks, courtesy Focus Features. It also came with a party, at which the biggest star in attendance was ... Mary-Kate Olsen, here with The Wackness, about a doper trading herb for therapy. Which sounds so very Sundance. --Robert Wilonsky

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