With Ashton Kutcher's “jOBS” closing out the fest, big names from Reese Witherspoon to Rooney Mara go small for good roles.
This story first appeared in the Dec. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Plenty of snow, and stars, will be adorning Park City for the Sundance Film Festival in January. This year's 115-movie lineup is chock-full of big-name actors -- both behind and in front of the camera.
Reflecting the flight of mainstream stars to independent film, as well as the festival's understanding that stars bring needed buzz, the competition titles revealed Nov. 28 include the likes of Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck (in Ain't Them Bodies Saints), Daniel Radcliffe (Kill Your Darlings), Kristen Bell (The Lifeguard) and Jessica Biel (Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes). And jOBS, the Steve Jobs biopic that stars Ashton Kutcher as the famed Apple co-founder, will close the festival in the noncompetition Premieres section. Other out-of-competition films feature Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon (Mud), Shia LaBeouf (The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman) and Amanda Seyfried (Lovelace).
"It's a reflection of the landscape," says John Cooper, director of the festival, which runs Jan. 17 to 27. "We notice that there's a very, very vital community of actors taking roles in independent films -- well-known actors in particular."
The trend isn't new. Last year's fest was headlined by such Hollywood veterans as Richard Gere (Arbitrage) and Helen Hunt (The Sessions, then titled The Surrogate). Both films now are awards contenders, further encouraging stars to go indie. More notable are the turns well-known actors are taking as filmmakers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is making his feature directorial debut with the out-of-competition drama Don Jon's Addiction, about a selfish modern-day Don Juan (the actor stars alongside Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore). Actress Lake Bell is making her feature directorial and screenwriting debut with In a World …, a competition film in which she plays an underachieving vocal coach who attempts to become a voice-over star. Meanwhile, actresses June Diane Raphael (Bride Wars) and Casey Wilson (Happy Endings) wrote and star in the road-trip comedy Ass Backwards.
Sundance planners appear to have made a tactical decision to screen jOBS on the closing night of the festival -- likely forcing exhausted film buyers, agents and executives to stick it out. But director of programming Trevor Groth says the film was chosen because "there's something inspirational about it. To see what he achieved by just staying true to his vision is something that I think a lot of people can relate to and get hope from it."