sundance 20104:30PM UPDATE: Lionsgate just bought Buried today for what I hear is between $3M and $4M. That’s low but not bad for the first major feature pickup at Sundance. Directed by Rodrigo Cortés and starring Ryan Reynolds, the thriller was written by Chris Sparling and produced by Adrián Guerra and Peter Safran. Jason Constantine, LG prez of acquisitions, said in a statement, “Buried is one of the tightest, most intense thrillers we’ve ever seen, and we were absolutely determined to bring it home to Lionsgate. Buried is a powerful reminder that all you really need for an unforgettable movie experience is a great story, inventive filmmaking and brilliant acting.  And because of the combined excellence of Rodrigo, Ryan and Chris, it’s all there.” UTA did the deal, even though it doesn’t rep Reynolds anymore. Darren Statt took him to CAA.

12:30PM: What is it with midnight screenings that are attracting so many bids at this Sundance? Buyers have been staying up late and opening their wallets. I hear that, after Buried premiered late last night, Lionsgate and Fox Searchlight and two others are in deal-making mode with UTA.

The screening was lively, thanks to star Ryan Reynolds and director Rodrigo Cortes. Though they were there to introduce the drama and then answer questions about its bleak subject matter, the duo might consider moonlighting as a comedy team. Their bookend appearances were a welcome respite from a film where Reynolds plays an abducted truck driver who spends the entire 94 minutes trapped in a coffin under the sand in a desert somewhere in Iraq, struggling to get rescued before his air runs out. Buried is bathed in claustrophobic terror, and Reynolds had the chops and charisma to pull off a difficult performance where the camera never leaves the coffin. Cortes welcomed the crowd by saying, “If you like this film, then I want you to know I am the director. And if you don’t, don’t blame me because I didn’t write this shit.” Reynolds then told the audience, “I hope you love the movie as much as I hated making it.”

At an earlier dinner, Reynolds told me that Buried came along right after his breakout summer of 2009’s Wolverine and The Proposal, and while he was vying for the lead role in Green Lantern. He liked Buried‘s Chris Sparling script, but especially the “15-page manifesto” which Cortes wrote explaining how he would shoot the film. Reynolds went to Spain alone for the 17-day shoot, and soon found himself ticking off the calendar days because the shoot was so arduous. He described the excruciating experience succinctly at the Q&A by comparing the coffin to “a roomy sweater made of wood, blood and sand.”