PARK CITY, UTAH—“There’s all this public kind of side, and then there are the films,” said Kevin Bacon of the Sundance Film Festival. “I think the spirit of the festival really still kind of exists.”
The 48-year-old actor was in Park City with his wife, Kyra Sedgwick, for more of a “public” purpose, promoting his new celebrity-friendly charity site, sixdegrees.com.
“I mean, the kinds of the movies that you come and you see still have a Sundance-y kind of indie vibe and, you know, this year especially has some darker, intense kinds of films, which is really great.”
It was Saturday and he was talking to The Transom from the Entertainment Weekly outpost, which had allotted a room for his new enterprise.
Mr. Bacon eventually brought his point to its obvious conclusion, that the world’s premier independent-film forum has changed radically since he first attended in 1989, when Park City was “still a sleepy little ski town and the Egyptian was the only theater with any movies.”
“Now you also have like this swag street,” he said with a laugh.
Being in Nature
But he wasn’t kidding. The area surrounding Main Street was riddled with roughly 20 celebrity-gifting suites.
The size of Sundance has mushroomed in general, and the town this year was dotted with scads of theaters and converted screening rooms to accommodate the festival’s program of 196 films.
But the effect of the “swag suites”—sponsored by the likes of Cadillac, Lexus and Marquee, combined with the seemingly endless flow of dinners, cocktail parties, concerts, after-parties, after-after-parties—has been to mutate the face of a once self-righteous symposium of small films into a frivolous celebration of celebritydom, a 10-day orgy of avarice.
Mr. Bacon, for his part, was trying to make the best of the situation. He said he had launched his site just a few days earlier on Jan. 18 and had already raised over $60,000. The site introduces visitors to a number of charities as well as to the celebrities who support them. After all, “We live in celebrity-obsessed culture,” he said. He brought the charity to Sundance this year to sign up as many celebrities as possible as well as garner media attention.
“We also have a thing on our site where you can actually come and bring any swag that you get and we’ll auction it off,” said Mr. Bacon, who wore jeans, boots and a dark blue long-sleeved thermal undershirt. “If you get anything that makes you say, ‘Well, I think I can part with this.’”
On the couches behind him sat a bored-looking Alan Alda and Teri Hatcher waiting to have their pictures taken in the EW studio, which was currently occupied by Josh Hartnett.
“I donated some shoes and gloves and a coat and a set of speakers that I really didn’t want to let go,” said Mr. Bacon, adding that AIDS and the environment were the causes to which he was most dedicated.
Up Main Street at the Project Greenhouse gift suite, Ed Begley Jr. was working up a sweat on his “usable power” bike. “I have one of these at home, too,” he said, peddling. “As I ride, I’m generating usable power. At my house I have a battery array, so as I ride the energy goes into the batteries and it’s available for any chore, to toast toast, to charge a cell phone, to run my computer for a whole day.”
The actor, who bought his first electrical car in 1970, was at the festival to pump his cause as well as his new show, Living with Ed, on HGTV.
The press kit for the environmentally friendly suite was printed on paper made primarily from elephant poo. Among the products being gifted were organic vodka, juice, non-toxic paints and furniture made of sustainable materials. A waitress came by offering edamame hummus on an organic mushroom flatbread.
Hounddog producer Terry Leonard was there and donated $500 to “offset the carbon emissions for the entire production of the movie.”
Lexus had helped sponsor the suite and sent a chauffeured hybrid to transport The Transom to its exclusive Icehouse suite at the top of a mountain. At the gate a guard asked for the occupants’ names.
Kathy Uyen, the attractive Asian actress in the front seat, joked, “I’m Lucy Liu.” The Transom followed suit, claiming the title of Brad Pitt.
Some seconds later, upon reaching the large tent with an igloo-like entrance, a mass of publicists had gathered in nervous anticipation of Mr. Pitt and Ms. Liu.
“The fact that that guard actually believed me goes to the point that there needs to be more Asian-American actors so that people don’t say, ‘Oh, you must be Lucy Liu,’” said Ms. Uyen. She had just been on the receiving end of a fierce lecture from one of the embarrassed publicists. “She said it was really humiliating, because she had all these sponsors paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for this event expecting to get photo ops with these celebrities.”
“Everything here is natural. We’re a carbon-neutral environment,” said the as-of-yet-uninformed president of Universal Product Placement Gary Mezzatesta. “This is bamboo floor, that’s an ice entrance, we’ve got all recycled materials on the green carpet.” He added: “So far we’ve been visited by Tom Arnold, Josh Hartnett and Heather Graham. Lucy Liu’s about to come in and Brad Pitt’s coming.”
(Ooops. Sorry, Gary!)
But Ms. Graham really was there! The actress, in town to promote her film Adrift in Manhattan, was busy swagging at the North Face station.
“I have a hybrid,” she said. “A Ford Escape. I love, like, being in nature, and I feel, like, it’s so sad that so many beautiful parts of the world are in such sad state. Save the environment, yay!”
It’s an Honor to Inject You!
The folks at the Marquee suite back on Main Street didn’t feel compelled to weave any causes célèbres into their celebrity gifting. The suite, which had taken over a wing (and reupholstered the awning) of the nightclub Harry O’s, was packed with desirable, if less environmentally sustainable, products, and notably more visitors.
Free Polaroid digital cameras, check. Free Lia Sophia baubles, check. Free Dermatologica cosmetics, check. Free Lacoste, check. A free Restylane gift certificate, check.
A friendly publicist, selling the Botox-usurping medicament, claimed that hotty quarterback Matt Leinart swooped up some Restylane for his very own mama.
“One of the things that I’ve been doing with Restylane is when someone has had a nose job, and the nose starts to move, and the nose starts to look irregular, a lot times I think injecting Restylane is a good option,” explained the good doctor behind the counter. “If you look at celebrities who look bizarre, they should have had Restylane.”
She kindly explained to The Transom that the Botox substitute “works absolutely fantastic on the lower eyelid.”
“If you’d like to make an appointment, I’d be honored to inject you,” she said.
Right down the block, at 780 Main Street, at the Beauty Bar, Dr. Mark Youssef was offering on-site injections.
“I’m scared of injections, I don’t even like going to the dentist,” squeaked Dustin “Screech” Diamond.
Camera crews had been trailing him and Gary Coleman around town for a reality show they hoped to sell called Celebrity Swag Hunt. So far, Mr. Diamond and Mr. Coleman were said to be neck and neck in the value race, each hovering around the $25,000 mark.
At the moment, Mr. Coleman was enjoying a haircut.
“When you’re done, we’re going to take you in the back and start poking you with needles,” said a half-joking Dr. Youssef, who was also pumping the merits of Restylane.
“Nope! With kidney disease I can’t take that kind of risk,” Mr. Coleman shot back. “You can poke Dustin Diamond all day long.”
He later agreed to a Vibraderm skin-exfoliation treatment valued at $200.
The Transom was refused entry at the Fred Segal suite.
“You need a green circle or black diamond on your pass to get in, no exceptions,” said the guard. “Hey, I had to stop Barbra Streisand at the door earlier today.”
In that case, however, the guard had been persuaded to make an exception.
Beyond being crowded, on an incline and quite slippery in spots—particularly in rubber-soled English walking shoes—the swag walk up and down Main Street is a veritable menagerie of famous faces, young and old. Here a Nick Nolte (ducking into a bar), there a Chris Klein (sporting a weave these days?), there a Wynona Ryder (skittish and all in black, as per usual), here a sprightly Adam “D.J. AM” Goldstein, arms akimbo with his new chick Mandy Moore.
If you’re not in the biz, the sightings only serve as a constant distraction from the free products, grub, booze and icy pavement that deserve your full attention. To those who are in the industry—and certainly they represent a significant slice of the 50,000-some-odd people descending on the festival each year—they represent something more.
“It’s like a convention for actors,” chirped Peter Sarsgaard, who was hanging out at the Delta Sky Lodge Friday night. “It’s really nice. You know it’s hard to keep in touch with directors and producers and actors after you make a movie.”
“We gotta, like, join forces,” Damon Dash was overheard saying to his boy Nick Cannon. The two were rubbing puffy jackets together at the Weapons party at the Cadillac lounge Saturday evening. Mr. Dash helped produce the film, which starred Mr. Cannon.
“It serves its purpose, it serves its purpose,” said Mr. Dash of Sundance. “It’s good money, you know. That’s all I really care about, as far as that goes.”
Mr. Dash said he was looking forward to seeing a few movies, like “the one with the little girl in it” and the one with Sienna Miller and the one “about the ganja girl.” But he wasn’t sure about how much time he would be able to spare.
“I’m working, you know, I’m trying to pump this movie,” he said. Of the mainstreaming of Sundance he theorized, “Once there’s money to made and a lot of exposure, then it will always turn to business. It’s like a double-edge sword like that.”
“I’m spinning at the 5W house party again tonight,” said Mr. Cannon. On Friday night, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs had been among those to groove to his jams on the dance floor. He said he was planning to get his “hot tub on” that night as well.
At the Grace Is Gone premiere, Harvey Weinstein did more than talk business. “He was bangin’ on the bathroom door, going, ‘You better not sell to anybody else!’” recalled Alessandro Nivola, who stars in the film.
Mr. Weinstein reportedly acquired the film for $4.2 million.
Sydney Levine, co-owner of the insiders’ guide Film Finders, got to witness Mr. Weinstein in action again Sunday afternoon. This time the scruffy honcho was after the film Teeth.
“He knew I was listening to every word, but he allowed me to,” said Ms. Levine. “It was like live theater. To me, to listen to a deal being made is almost better than seeing the movie.”
Come nightfall, though, everyone at the dance tends to forget business and get jiggy.
At the Premiere Lounge at the Riverhouse Cafe Sunday night, David Wain, the director of the much-hyped comedy The Ten, was feeling the spirit.
“Lets hear it for D.J. Blue,” he screamed from the stage. “This guy, he mixes, he slaps, he bangs, he scratches, he hits. I want to thank everybody here. I mean, is this the best party at the whole goddamn Sundance? That’s ’cause this is the best fucking goddamn film here!”
Soon after Mr. Wain and the Ten cast got off the stage, up popped Crown Heights–based Orthodox rapper Matisyahu.
He scored big with two models in the front, bringing them to tears.
“I don’t know if they were fans or drunk or really moved, which is what it looked like. They were being really dramatic,” said an onlooker. “During the acoustic Jerusalem song, they were kissing their fingers and putting up peace signs.”
Later, Matisyahu dropped by the Heineken party at Village at the Lift, where Bijou Phillips, Tara Reid, Paul Rudd and Ron Burkle were getting ready for a bout of celebrity karaoke as night fell over the mountains.