The 18th annual Hamptons International Film Festival came to town over the busy, sunny and beautiful Columbus Day Weekend, October 7-11. Many stars, directors, and producers gathered at the Maidstone Arms in East Hampton, which was the headquarters for this festival. The festival opened on Thursday night with over 500 film industry people attending a welcome party at Gurney’s Inn in Montauk, overlooking the ocean.
During the four-day festival, dozens of independent films were screened, and parties and events were held, in theaters from Southampton, to Sag Harbor, to East Hampton, and Montauk. The movie that won “Best Film” during this festival was “A King’s Speech,” executive produced by Harvey Weinstein, directed by Tom Hooper, and written by David Seidler. Many people, including James Lipton, of “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” thought it was a contender for the Oscar, next to “Social Network.”
“I think “The King’s Speech” is the best film I’ve seen in years,” Lipton said as he walked out of the Southampton UA Theater after the premiere on Friday night, October 8.
Director Tom Hooper and screenwriter David Seidler were also at the Southampton premiere of their new movie, about the untold story of England’s King George VI, (played by Colin Firth) and his struggle to overcome his severe stuttering problem, with the help of his speech teacher, Lionel Logue, (played by Geoffrey Rush.)
“The English are not that accepting of therapy, so this King’s story was kept extremely secret,” said Hooper. “In making this film, we dug up archival footage and diaries, and when we first saw the footage of King George stuttering, it brought me to tears, seeing the pain in his eyes, which made us want to do this film and tell his story.”
Seidler wrote the script for this movie based on his own experience of stuttering, growing up in London, and being inspired by seeing his own King struggle with the same affliction. “I heard him stuttering on the radio, and I thought if a king can overcome it, there’s hope for me—he was my childhood hero,” said Seidler, at an after party at 75 Main Street Restaurant in Southampton. “I wanted to write this movie for 30 years, but in my research, I contacted the Royal Palace, and the Queen Mother said I could use the diaries kept by Logue, but not in her lifetime, (since it was so painful,) so I had to wait until she died, and then I wrote the script, using direct quotes from Logue’s diaries.”
Of working with Colin Firth, Hooper said, “Colin’s so much fun and he talks a lot, so it’s a great irony that he plays a man who can’t speak.”
Also attending the after party at 75 Main Street were Hannah Pakula, widow of the late director, Alan Pakula, and Ann Barish, of the HFF Board of Directors, who hosted the party.
“The King’s Speech” opens at the London Film Festival on October 21, and it opens in New York theaters November 24. Seidler, of Santa Monica, CA, said there are also plans to take it to the Broadway stage.
Heartthrob James Franco took the stage at Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor on Saturday, Oct. 9, to talk about his new film, “127 Hours,” that premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival. In this true-life drama, Franco played mountain biker Aron Ralston, who fell down a deep crevice and became trapped by a boulder, for 127 hours, on a journey across Utah. As he was running out of food and water, his only hope for survival was to amputate his arm. When asked if he usually plays characters in isolation, Franco said, “In this movie, my character is in isolation, but what motivates him to survive, is to reconnect with his family and his friends. I love people, and I’m happier when I’m around people, but I spent a lot of time alone when I was young. The challenge in “127 Hours” for Director Danny Boyle, was how to make this movie entertaining, when this guy is trapped in one place for so long.” Franco also premiered his new short film, “The Clerk’s Tale,” at the festival.
Artist turned filmmaker Julian Schnabel, of Montauk, departed from painting long enough to direct his fifth film, “Miral,” about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which premiered at the Hamptons Film Festival October 8.
“Twenty years ago, I had an exhibit at the Israeli Museum, and I felt I owed it to my mother, who was the President of Hadassah in 1948, to go there and tell the story of their struggle through the eyes of a Palestinian girl,” he said, at his screening in East Hampton. “But I never had any doubt that Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) would play this role, because even though she’s from India, she was the perfect star for Miral.”
At the screening, Pinto added, “I felt Julian went way beyond politics to tell a human story. I enjoyed working with him, and with the wonderful script by Rula Jebreal.”
Alec Baldwin and Marcia Gay Harden hosted a party for the Hamptons International Film Festival, at the Hedges Inn in East Hampton on October 7. As he walked in, Baldwin ignored the crowd and went right over to 10 year-old Sophie Nyweide, a star of the indie film, “An Invisible Sign,” shook her hand, and told her, “I’m a big fan of yours.”
He posed for photos with Sophie, of Harlem, and her co-star, 11 year-old Emerald Angel Young, of Rockaway, who said she auditioned for “30 Rock,” but is now filming a movie called, “Violet and Daisy.”
“I think Alec Baldwin is hysterical—and handsome,” she said.
Marcia Gay Harden, who came to East Hampton (on October 7) to honor Indie film producer Ben Barenholtz, was asked by a movie fan, if she was ever thinking of getting a home out there.
“The Hamptons is a little public for me,” she said. “If I’m going to be seen in a bathing suit, I need a couple hundred acres around me.”
Paul Giamatti, of Brooklyn, made his first trip to the Hamptons to kick off the opening night movie, Barney’s Version,” in which he starred, at the festival. At a kick-off party at East Hampton’s “Maidstone Arms” on Thursday, Oct. 7, before his screening, Giamatti, 43, said, “I age 30 years in this film, which spans the lifetime of my character, producer Barney Panofsky. “But I hope I look that good when I’m his age.” He said Dustin Hoffman, who plays his father in the movie, was “hilarious and a lot of fun” to work with on the set.
Activist and author Jane Goodall was at the festival promoting her new autobiographical film, “Jane’s Journey,” about her world travels on behalf of earth and animal preservation, especially the chimpanzees in Tanzania. Holding a stuffed chimpanzee, Goodall said she just returned from working with Charleze Theron in the Congo, and praised her and other celebs including Pierce Brosnan and Angelina Jolie, for helping her save animal species.
As for her new film, Goodall, 76, said, “It’s a bit overwhelming to see my life on the big screen, and although I’ve had many requests for a Hollywood movie, I’m happy I got to play myself in this indie film, rather than have an actor play me.”
The festival wrapped up on Columbus Day, with three films made in the Hamptons, including “King of the Hamptons, by Dennis Lynch, “Kisses, Chloe,” by Frank Padilla, and “Where are You Going, Where Have You Been,” a film adapted from the short story of Joyce Carol Oates, by 18 year-old filmmaker Alexa Barrett, of Southampton.