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Sundance: A Party Reporter’s Diary

Yesterday, on day four of the Sundance Film Festival, this intrepid Vulture reporter was kept from covering a red carpet for The Runaways because it was overcapacity — which pretty much sums up the infuriatingly overbooked Sundance experience. We’ve seen ticket-holders get turned away from screenings, and last night we watched Shaun White nearly get shut out of a party for Oakley. (To his credit, he just stood there without making a fuss, and the door guy eventually figured things out.) Here’s more of what we learned in Park City so far.

• Speaking of Shaun White, no one can beat him, not even movie stars.
On Saturday night, traffic slowed to a standstill and every city bus was filled to capacity with eager spectators going a single destination. Shockingly, the crowds had nothing to do with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Mark Ruffalo making their directorial debuts with Jack Goes Boating and Sympathy for Delicious, respectively, or Ryan Reynolds, Bill Murray, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride showing up at various parties throughout the night. Park City just happened to be hosting the final event of the U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, the results of which would determine which four men and women make the Olympic snowboarding half-pipe team. Shaun White’s spot has long been secure, but still he debuted his new trick, the Double McTwist 1260 — two flips and three-and-a-half spins — and pulled out an insane, gauntlet-throwing run that scored 49.5, just half a point shy of perfect. Uh, what film festival?

• Want surefire entertainment? Ride the city bus.
Forget the Sundance festival shuttles, which make express stops to all the theaters. The place to be is the amazing — and free! — city bus. Each route stops at seemingly every corner in town, picking up both bemused locals and visiting film-lovers, most of whom seem to have never used public transportation in their lives. Our favorite moment so far was during the hour-long ride to a not-very-far-away theater, when in a moment of silence, we caught a fellow passenger mid-story: “ ... So, my scrotum got ripped off at an ice skating rink ... ” To make a long one short, who knew skin from the foot had so many uses?

•The only thing more determined than a blizzard is Ben Affleck.
In order to make it to the premiere of his layoff drama The Company Men, Ben Affleck hopped on a private plane straight from the Haiti benefit in Los Angeles and then drove like a mad man through a blizzard so thick it blanketed Park City with over a foot of snow. As journalists waited eagerly on the red carpet, publicists gave a minute-by-minute countdown to his arrival, which, despite the conditions, was closer to on-time than anyone could have expected. When Affleck finally arrived, he gave charming, bland answers about layoffs (he was once fired from some menial labor job when he was 16, but it’s nothing like those many folks back home in Boston who are suffering) and the most famous laid-off person of all, Conan O’Brien (“I’m not going to tell you what I think, because then I’d be revealing too much about myself”). His director, John Wells, said he cast Affleck because he combines hidden depth with the aspect of “being so charming you’re not sure you can trust he’s genuine. Ben’s just a little too handsome; when you’re watching him onscreen, you’re kind of hoping that something bad happens to him, but nothing too bad.” We’d have to agree.

• If and when you do get into a party, do not assume you will be allowed to take a bathroom break.
After round eighteen of arguing with security guards who didn’t think that actually being inside a party had anything to do with our ability to cover a party, we went to what was supposed to be the relatively sedate “Variety’s Ten Directors to Watch” panel and after-party at the huge new St. Regis way up in the hills of Deer Valley, Utah. The invite said 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., but by 6:45, the room had exceeded its capacity of 250 people, and guards had set up a velvet rope between the party and the only bathroom. Anyone who dared try to exit to pee risked having to stand in a reentry line for over an hour, requiring several gentlemen to offer to pee in the corner.

• Celebs love swag, but don’t like anyone knowing they love swag.
All weekend, various gifting lounges gave free things to celebrities who probably don’t need free things. Several, like Muscle Milk-Lia Sophia Lounge and Fred Segal at the Yard even tried to assuage do-gooder guilt by giving a donation to a charity for each item they’d “gifted.” But a few famous folks were determined to take stuff without actually being photographed taking stuff. Jessica Alba showed up at the Fred Segal lounge at 7 p.m., after it had closed and the photographers had all gone, and still walked away with some Dillon Rogers leather bracelets. Adrian Grenier went through the lounges with a model friend and an assistant, who told him at each station, “You don’t need that. Don’t take it.” (He came away with only a sweatshirt.) And Marisa Tomei, who’d already made the rounds to the Oakley gifting suite, stopped by the Fred Segal lounge twice yesterday. After determining the lounge to be too crowded, she left and returned hours later with her assistant, and then proceeded to sequester herself in an empty photo studio and have her assistant bring things so she wouldn’t get photographed with any swag.

• Kelis and Nas’s relationship is ever an enigma.
According to the rumor mill, as soon as Kelis heard that her ex, Nas — who’s currently paying her $51,000 a month in child and spousal support — was playing a concert at the Main Street club Harry O’s, she booked herself on the same night at the House of Hype directly across the street. She was supposed to follow John Legend at the after-party for Waiting for Superman, the new documentary about education from An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim, but kept delaying her performance because she refused to play during Nas's set. Superman star Bill Gates apparently stayed up and danced to "Milkshake" until the bitter end. [Update: According to Kelis's publicist: "Kelis and nobody from her team had any idea Nas was scheduled to perform. This event was booked several weeks ago by her agent. She was always scheduled to perform around 1:30 a.m. since it was an after-party that did not start until midnight ... Kelis and Nas performing on the same night was pure coincidence. We obviously are not routing her performance schedule around his. It's absurd that this rumor is even going around."]

• Jon Hamm doesn’t go to parts, parts come to Jon Hamm.
When we ran into Hamm at the Diesel-sponsored premiere of Howl, in which he plays Jake Ehlrich, the legendary defense lawyer who won the Ginsberg obscenity trial, and on whom Perry Mason was based, he told us how he won the part at “a very late date”: “It was just, ‘Hey, do you want to do this movie?’ ‘Yeah, sure’ ‘Can you get on a plane and go tomorrow?’ ‘Tomorrow? Yeah, I guess.’” This, Hamm explained, is why he looks exactly like Don Draper and nothing like Perry Mason in the movie. “[The Don resemblance] is sort of unfortunate in a lot of ways. But I was thrust into it and here we are.” He also said that Jon Hamm’s John Ham most likely will not make an appearance when returns to host Saturday Night Live this weekend. “I think that ship has sailed.”

• Famous crank Tommy Lee Jones is predictably cranky.
To photographers at The Company Man premiere: “Okay, guys, one more [shot] and then I have to go. I’m really cranky. I’m a movie star, don’t you know? I’m a star!”

• Philip Seymour Hoffman is very sad about the Jets.
Philip Seymour Hoffman choked up and wiped away tears during the Variety party as his good friend and LAByrinth Theater co-founder, John Ortiz, gave a speech about what a good person he is. But that wasn’t the only thing making him an emotional wreck. The Jets hat he wore while wandering forlornly through the party said it all. “It’s sad,” he said. “We had a good run and it’s over. It’s sad, sad, sad. I am so sad.”

Photo: Clayton Chase/Getty Images