Summer doesn’t officially start until Sunday, but the all-important fall festival season looks like it already has kicked off. The Telluride crowd was out in force Wednesday night on the Hampton roof of the London Hotel in West Hollywood for their annual Hollywood meet and greet. Fest directors Tom Luddy and Julie Huntsinger welcomed a lot of the usual crowd you see on the western streets of Telluride, CO, during Labor Day weekend, including a few I spotted like 100-year-old Norman Lloyd, director Werner Herzog, producer John Ptak, writer-director Charlie Kaufman, actor Tim Matheson, Roadside Attractions toppers Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff, as well as publicists from the likes Sony Pictures Classics and Fox Searchlight who traditionally supply a lot of the Oscar-bait films Telluride has been attracting in recent years. I also saw several execs from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which is a sponsor along with te London, and has been throwing a party for its members at the fest the past few years.
This soiree was intended to grease the wheels and get the enthusiasm factor up for the fest, though no one was dropping any hints about just which potential Academy-friendly films might be making the trek to Colorado this year. I would bet we will see SPC’s Cannes pickup Son Of Saul, there for sure and wouldn’t be surprised to see The Weinstein Company’s Carol with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara there either, though SPC might want to debut its Blanchett film, Truth, as well (or at another fall fest). Searchlight could bring its Youth. Telluride would be a perfect place to fete its star Michael Caine with a tribute. But who knows? Telluride is notoriously secretive about spilling the beans on its wide-ranging programming until the day before the festival starts. Studio reps say they would be killed if they leaked it. But info inevitably will start to stream out.
This year’s 42nd edition plays September 3-7, overlapping with the Venice Film Festival and followed closely by the Toronto International Film Festival (September 10-20). Of course last year there was a battle royale between Telluride and Toronto for some high-profile titles, with TIFF demanding exclusivity for its key first four days. That rule has been altered this year, but TIFF still is telling distributors their films can’t play the top three venues during Toronto’s first four days if they first played another festival (i.e. that one in the Rockies). No one at this party seemed too concerned. Telluride, which doesn’t label its movies as World Premieres, beat TIFF to the punch with six of the past seven Best Picture winners: Birdman, 12 Years A Slave, Argo, The Artist, Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech. And Telluride certainly has its faithful who return year after year. “I’ve brought about 35 films to the festival,” Herzog told me. He’s been there so often they named the newest, and largest, theater after him. It is an ice skating rink the rest of the year but converted to a movie palace over Labor Day weekend for the fest. Herzog just returned from Bolivia, where he has been shooting Salt And Fire, in which he also stars with Michael Shannon and Gael Garcia Bernal.
Lloyd had a documentary on his remarkable life and career play the fest one year and accompanied each showing with a Q&A. I told this indefatiguable centenarian (he turns 101 in November) that just two hours earlier I had gotten an emailed press release about him from Universal, which was touting his performance in his latest film, director Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer (July 17). I showed it to him on my iPhone, and he took it to read for himself and the group of friends gathered around him.”The adorable 100 YEAR OLD actor is in Trainwreck. Pretty remarkable that he’s 100 and still working and quite honestly amazing. He was best buddies with Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock and starred in Saboteur and Spellbound! Amazing MAN!,” it said while pitching him for interviews. “Judd has asked me to join him and Amy for a stand-up routine on Sunday at the Wiltern,” Lloyd said. “They are doing this in different cities. I said OK as long as he doesn’t step on any of my material.” Should be something to see.
Cohen was talking up the success of Roadside and Lionsgate’s Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy. They plan an awards campaign, particularly for stars Paul Dano and John Cusack, who share the role of Wilson. Cohen also confirmed they won’t be releasing their South by Southwest acquisition Hello, My Name Is Doris until March. Sally Field’s lead performance was widely acclaimed and already Oscar touted by some press, but Cohen says they looked at the calendar and feel the competition in that sector is just too brutal in the fall so they will hold it — just as they did when they bought Matthew McConaughey’s Mud out of Cannes and with Love & Mercy after picking it up in Toronto in September. The strategy seems to be paying off rather than rushing immediately into an Oscar season.
It’s not even the Fourth of July yet, but this crowd already is counting the weeks until Labor Day. And with good reason.