Hamptons Film Festival’s Freaky Friday

It looked on Friday night as though the 15th annual Hamptons International Film Festival were going to be a washout. Torrential rains slowed traffic to a baby crawl on the Long Island Expressway, and by the time it was a little before 7 p.m., the assorted bedraggled paparazzi were fidgeting and joking among themselves at the sight of the empty red carpet at the East Hampton Cinema on Main Street, the hub of the festival.

The co-stars of the literally-named film Martian Child, Amanda Peet and John Cusack, were supposed to have arrived at 5:45 for their snaps, but even at 7:00 they were still on the wet road. Spirits remained high, though, and by the time Ms. Peet showed up, a good old fashioned buzz filled the room.

Ms. Peet, shockingly lovely and delicate in person, gamely made her way down the line, wearing a leopard-print patterned dress and open-toed shoes — that didn’t look wet at all! But after she passed the flashbulbs she flopped, exhausted looking, on a nearby bench and pulled out her cell phone, not looking particularly pleased as the gaggle of publicists around her kept her up to date on Mr. Cusack’s progress. Apparently Mr. Cusack’s car was trapped in the same miserable traffic as everyone else’s (Stars! They’re Just Like Us!).

“Ten minutes,” a harried-looking girl assured Ms. Peet. “He just has to stop by the hotel and change his clothes.” Before Mr. Cusack could show, though, another distinguished gent arrived. Phil Donahue! “Oh my god, is that really Phil Donahue?” asked one of Ms. Peet’s companions, neck craning. In case anyone wondered, Mr. Donahue looks fantastic, and his voice, still recognizable after all these years, simply booms. Mr. Donahue was at the festival to promote Body of War, an Iraq documentary that he co-wrote and co-directed, with the help of money (and music!) from Eddie Vedder, and Sean Penn as well.

Ms. Peet looked unimpressed with the scrum around Mr. Donahue, but when the shockingly-tall Mr. Cusack did arrive, she kindled and took back her place on the red carpet to flash her megawatt grin.

In past years, the Hamptons Film Festival’s Friday night is filled with mellow celebrity-filled parties. Due to weather and traffic stress, however, by 10:30 East Hampton looked like any other beach town in October, slick empty roads and deserted restaurants and bars. The scene apparently was at Nick & Toni’s, where New Line was celebrating Martian Child. But a mellower crowd congregated at the Hampton Bowl, where old-school publicity man Jeremy Walker threw a midnight bowling party. There was a strobe light, Def Leppard on the stereo and many pitchers of beer. But not-so-much star power (save for Jamie Johnson, director of Born Rich, who stuck to bowling over socializing). Phil Donahue didn’t show — apparently he was pissed off at the weather causing the evening’s screenings to be anemic.

When the day broke it was sunny and the fall colors were peaking, and by 11:15 people were already buzzing around the theater. Chris Eigeman’s Turn the River was screening, and star Famke Janssen, in low-slung tan slacks and a peasant blouse, was hanging around with her little dog, looking effortlessly hot. Alec Baldwin was taking in a showing of I Am Animal, a documentary about PETA (is he a veg, too?) and tickets traffic in and out of the theater seemed to be picking up.