I can't remember the first time I came to the Sundance Film Festival, but I've had some memorable moments here over the years.
One film I produced at Mirage, "Sliding Doors" was the opening night film, screening to a huge gala audience in Salt Lake City one year.
Another year, Jez Butterworth's "Birthday Girl" starring Ben Chaplin and Nicole Kidman, also played here.
Once, I was up here with my whole family, and we ended up having a front row seat at one of the more infamous events to take place here over the years.
I had attended the first screening of an unheralded Australian film directed by a relative newcomer named Scott Hicks called "Shine". The film, featuring a knockout performance by Geoffrey Rush, was a sensation, one of the most powerful reactions I have ever seen in a cinema when it ended. There was a five or ten minute standing ovation, and a crush of agents swarming over the talent in the theatre and spilling out on to the street outside afterwards.
But Rush's work wasn't the only "knockout" of the evening. A heated bidding war broke out for the distribution rights to the film, back in those heady days when the specialty business was in a less fragile state. Led by Harvey Weinstien's Miramax and his crack team of acquisition executives, the marketplace was much more heated and intense, and a film like "Shine" which screamed its Oscar potential and crowd-pleasing playability for the smart adult boomer audience who at that time were more frequent moviegoers, set off a frenzy among various competing buyers.
Unaware of any of this, I took my Father and his girlfriend and the rest of my family to dinner at a restaurant, Mercato Mediterraneo down at the end of Main Street, the next night. But as drinks were served and we ordered our food, we started to become aware of a commotion that was taking place at a table nearby.
As we were to later learn, after an all-night negotiating session, two companies thought they had sewn up the rights to the movie, Fine Line Features, then the arthouse division of New Line Cinema, run by my friend Ruth Vitale, and of course Harvey. When Harvey got wind that the film might have gone to someone else, he tracked down one of the producers, Jonathon Taplin, who happened to be having dinner at the table in front of us in the restaurant. In what was either a brilliant or horrific physical maneuver, depending on whether you were the giver or recipient, Harvey had pulled up a chair behind Taplin, thereby pinning him right in to the spot his was sitting at the table. What started as a very intense private conversation soon escalated into a brouhaha that the whole restaurant bore witness to. Finally, the maitre d' had to intervene and escort Harvey out of the restaurant as things looked like they might get really physical.
It was a wonderful way to introduce my Dad to exactly what it was I was doing in Hollywood, and the friendly, relaxed nature of my chosen career path. "This is the business you've chosen" he asked incredulously, inadvertently echoing the famous line from "The Godfather".
But my happiest Sundance memory is certainly coming up here for the first time with my soon-to-be-wife Elsa Mora. Elsa had traveled out of Cuba a few times before I met her in Havana in December of 2000, but she had never been anywhere with cold weather, and she had never ever in her life seen real snow before.
Here is a picture of Elsa experiencing the snow for the first time. No surprise for someone from Cuba, she hates the cold, and even though she is bundled up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy in this shot, she was complaining about how freezing she was most of the time she spent in Park City.
Is that a Mona Lisa smile or a white-tooth grimace? You decide.