• FS1
    9:00 PM PST

    9:30 PM PST

Aniston and Friends Forgotten at Sundance

1/20/2006 1:08 PM PST

Filmmaker Nicole Holofcener warned the Sundance Film Festival crowd she was nervous.

And she proved it in remarks that preceded the premiere of her film "Friends With Money," forgetting to introduce her quartet of stars: Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack.

"Friends With Money" opened the festival to a packed theater Thursday night, with Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford and festival director Geoffrey Gilmore offering remarks before Holofcener came up.

Holofcener thanked many others on the film, executives at distributor Sony Pictures Classics, her casting director and editor, the male co-stars, including Jason Isaacs, Scott Caan, Simon McBurney and Greg Germann.

Then she started to leave, only rushing back to the podium after Gilmore reminded her she had neglected to mention the lead actresses.

"I forgot you guys. They are a very integral part of the movie," Holofcener joked as Aniston, McDormand, Keener and Cusack took the stage beside her.

"Friends With Money" stars Aniston as a lovable, unmarried pothead who quits her job teaching at a private school and scrapes by cleaning houses as her well-to-do married pals (McDormand, Keener and Cusack) offer advice and sympathy while messing up their own lives in creative ways.

The film is due in theaters this spring.

Sundance, the nation's top showcase for independent film, will present 120 feature films during its 11-day run.

During a question-and-answer session with the audience after the premiere, writer-director Holofcener said the idea originated with the thought that money -- and the mix of those who have it and those who don't -- would make for an interesting dynamic.

Cusack seemed to politely disagree that finance was at the heart of the film.

"It's not really about money," Cusack said. "It's about being centered. Money is kind of a symbol of how you are in your life and how you're going to be centered."

And Keener, who starred in Holofcener's previous films "Walking and Talking" and "Lovely & Amazing," politely refuted Cusack.

"I don't agree, because I feel money has a lot to do with how everyone's centered," Keener said. "I think if it were a level playing field, then we'd all see where everyone is at."

Aniston mostly kept quiet, the former "Friends" star offering a curt response when asked why she did a small independent film when she has so many other options.

"You saw the movie," Aniston said, adding she had wanted to work with her fellow actresses and Holofcener.

Sundance Retains Indie Spirit, Redford Says

1/19/2006 2:55 PM PST

The Sundance Film festival may look as though it's gone Hollywood with all the celebrity bashes and corporate logos splashed around town. But those are trappings outside the control of Sundance, which has never wavered from its mission of discovery for new film talent, said Robert Redford, whose Sundance Institute oversees the festival.

At a news conference as the 11-day festival opened Thursday, Redford said Sundance's knack for showcasing films that went on to commercial success drew marketers hoping to share the limelight.

"Once the festival achieved a certain level of notoriety, then people began to come here with agendas that were not the same as ours," Redford said. "We can't do anything about that. We can't control that."

While film fans crowd festival theaters to catch some of the 120 feature-length movies playing at Sundance, this ski-resort town buzzes with parties, concerts and other events to promote products ranging from jewelry and jeans to washing machines and sports-utility vehicles.

One reporter asked Redford if Sundance had evolved into a festival with a "Butch Cassidy" or a "Sundance Kid" personality, referring to the actor's pairing with Paul Newman in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

"Neither one," said Redford, who played Sundance to Newman's Butch. "It's hard for me to answer questions about `Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.' And also, it's such a commercial phrasing. I don't know that we've seen ourselves in that perspective. You might say `Treasure of the Sierra Madre."'

Stars Line Up at Sundance

1/18/2006 4:20 PM PST

PARK CITY, Utah -- Actors are directing. Singers are acting. Drama directors are making concert films. Former presidential rivals Al Gore and Ralph Nader are hitting the big screen.

And Hollywood's much-maligned system of rating movies stars in its own film.

The Sundance Film Festival, the country's foremost showcase for independent cinema, gets under way Thursday with an intriguing mix of role reversals among its cast.

Gore and Nader lead what's shaping up as a powerhouse year for documentaries, always a strong suit at Sundance. Director Davis Guggenheim's "An Inconvenient Truth" chronicles former Vice President Gore's dogged campaign to convince a reluctant society of fossil-fuel profiteers and consumers about the dangers of global warming.

Nader, viewed by critics as the spoiler whose campaign kept Gore out of the White House in the 2000 election, is the subject of Henriette Mantel and Stephen Skrovan's "An Unreasonable Man," a portrait of the crusader for consumer rights and safety.

A Pair of Sundance 'Icons'

12/19/2005 2:18 PM PST

NEW YORK -- Robert Redford recently did something not so unusual for him. He hung out with his pal Paul Newman.

But what was different: He did it for a documentary to air on Sundance Channel, the cable network he founded but seldom appears on.

As the season finale of "Iconoclasts," this hour-long portrait sticks to the format of the five that came before. It brings together a pair of innovators from different creative fields for one to serve as an admiring guide into the world of the other. Like chef Mario Batali on rocker Michael Stipe. Actress Renee Zellweger on correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Or Redford on Newman beyond his role as screen legend. It premieres 10 p.m. EST Thursday (with additional play dates).

"It was never going to be 'The Paul and Bob Show,"' says Redford, who also executive-produced the series. "Instead, the idea of me presenting a friend who was also a colleague to speak about what inspired him -- his salad-dressing company, his racing interests, his camp for children -- those were areas that I thought were worthy of attention.

"And I thought maybe some day he can turn around and present me, and let me talk about Sundance," says Redford, adding an affectionate gibe -- "which he probably won't do."

Redford, who at 68 still looks terrific -- a craggier version of the golden boy in jeans and denim shirt whose reign as superstar began four decades ago -- will be on TV in another capacity this month. He will be saluted (along with Tony Bennett, Suzanne Farrell, Julie Harris and Tina Turner) on "The 28th Annual Kennedy Center Honors," which, taped a couple of weeks ago, airs Dec. 27 at 9 p.m. EST on CBS.

But, sitting down with a reporter not long ago, he makes clear that his sights are fixed on 2006, when his Sundance mission will mark a couple of gratifying milestones: a decade for Sundance Channel, and a nice, round quarter-century for the Sundance Institute, the nonprofit organization dedicated to developing artists of independent vision and exhibiting their work.

"Sundance was started as a mechanism for the discovery of new voices and new talent," Redford explains in an easy, confiding manner. It was his response to concern in the late 1970s that movies were narrowing their focus: too commercially driven, too beholden to the youth market.

Even then, at the height of his star power (with hits like "Three Days of the Condor," "All the President's Men" and his Oscar-winning directing debut for "Ordinary People") he recognized that, all too soon, there might not be a call for the kind of films he liked to make. Or, for that matter, liked to see.

"When I started Sundance it was just to be a lab to give filmmakers a place to come and work, set on a small part of 5,000 acres of land I had bought in Utah to preserve," he says.

Innovative films emerged there, just as he had hoped: "Putting art against nature produces something really positive."

But what then? How would anybody see them? A Sundance film festival seemed the answer, and in 1985 it began in Park City, Utah.

"The first years, no one came," says Redford, flashing a grin at the memory. "I was literally standing in the street hawking it like a circus barker: `Come on in and see the show!'

"But when films that came out of the festival started to succeed -- `sex, lies and videotape' and others -- Sundance suddenly became a scene: The merchants came, then they brought the stars in to promote the films. Then the paparazzi came. Then the fashion people. All these tiers started to build out," competing for attention and sometimes clashing with the festival's original purpose.

At risk of falling victim to its own success, the festival confronted a new challenge: "I realized we've got a lot of work to do here, reminding people that nothing's changed from Day One."

There has been no change in the mission, Redford stresses. Just new ways to pursue it.

In 1996, Sundance Channel (a for-profit venture now partnered with NBC Universal and Showtime Networks) signed on under Redford's creative direction. His concept: "To duplicate for TV the experience I saw working for those 10 days each winter."

From Jan. 20 to 29, Sundance Channel's schedule will include daily reports from the 2006 Sundance Film Festival as well as other related fare.

But the channel is more than a festival adjunct. Or a movie channel. As a commercial-free network with 23.1 million subscribers, it targets an audience much broader than film fanatics, with eclectic offerings beyond its uncut feature films and documentaries.

"The viewers we are going after see themselves as independent thinkers, and as some combination of creative and thought leaders," says Sundance Channel president Larry Aidem. "Our programming delivers on that."

Redford sees television as playing "a huge role in our future." And the Internet, too? "Absolutely."

Even so, he retains a fundamental faith in the communal viewing experience. After stumbling a few years ago with an attempt to establish a chain of cinemas, Sundance will soon be opening theaters across the country: a national, year-round outreach by the Sundance Festival.

Redford believes that, by offering creative, exploratory work to its audience, any Sundance outlet (theaters, TV or even the Sundance Catalog, where handmade art and crafts can be purchased) cross-pollinates rather than cannibalizes. It furthers the mission on multiple fronts.

"Years ago, I had an idea so clear in my head," he says -- "like a perfectly drawn picture of what it would look like, feel like, sound like. And you want it right then! But things don't work that way. Particularly when you're trying something new."

That's one sample of Redford's hard-won wisdom. Another: "How much of my time this was going to take. I wanted to see Sundance through, and make sure it wasn't corrupted or derailed. But my own work did suffer in the last two decades. Whereas in the '70s I would make sometimes three films in a year, and was having a wonderful time, I made just three or four films in the entire 1980s."

He has picked up the pace a bit since then, but, now, as the institute observes its 25th anniversary he's poised to throw himself back into acting. No fewer than three films are in development, including one that would reunite him on-screen with his co-star from "The Sting," the 80-year-old Newman, and another, a Jackie Robinson biopic, in which he would play baseball executive Branch Rickey. No surprise, then, if he feels it's just a bit premature to get that Kennedy Center life-achievement award. "You're flattered, you're honored. But there's a lot to be done yet. Retirement's not an option for me, never would be," insists this ageless golden boy. "It's too early to be bronzed."
Around the Web