You never know who you'll see while hunting stars at Sundance

Published: Sunday, Jan. 23 2011 11:59 p.m. MST

Kevin Spacey, shown here at The Yarrow Hotel in Park City during the 2000 Festival, has been seen this year as well.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

PARK CITY — It's hunting season at Sundance Film Festival. Paparazzi, reporters and the public vie for that glimpse of a star and, if their digital camera will just turn on fast enough, a photograph to prove they saw her.

In 2008, Stephen Speckman wrote in the Deseret News about various people taking photographs of stars. He wrote how Jon Swenson snapped a photo of one of the Olsen twins. "I got either Mary-Kate or Ashley," Swenson said. He wasn't sure which twin, according to Speckman.

And so it goes. Was that Jack Black or just a grainy photograph of Big Foot?

Gustavo Caballero was a freelance photographer shooting at Sundance for Getty Images. He told Speckman about photographing celebrities: "If you're nice to them, they're nice to you." Caballero said he likes to ask before shooting. Celebs like that.

Photo historian Ron Fox dug through the Deseret News archives recently and culled several dozen photographs of stars from Sundance past. Some of the stars look like stars. Others look like ordinary folk — but very rich and famous ordinary folk.

Amelia Nielson-Stowell wrote in the paper last year during the 2010 Sundance Film Festival about how celebrities feel about being photographed. She wrote about how Mark Hedengren, a Provo resident who worked for French news agency Sipa, was not a typical paparazzi. He was polite, charming and a serious photographer.

"Most of the actors like to get their photo taken. It's like a mini photo shoot," Hedengren told Nielson-Stowell. "Covering celebrities is a lot like covering religion. People idolize celebrities like religion. It's a lifestyle like religion."

And if seeking out a star is your religion — or something like a religion — it is probably a good idea to know how to act around your idol.

The News' Chris Hicks wrote in 1997 what he called "Sundance For Dummies." His advice for approaching the famous: "You may not be able to keep from pointing and staring if Robert Redford or Sandra Bullock should wander into a shop where you are browsing, but try to be cool. If a star seems friendly and outgoing, he or she might be somewhat approachable, but keep it casual — and brief. Don't interrupt Sandra Bullock's lunch or Denis Leary's intense game of pool. If you find yourself waiting in line next to Susan Sarandon, some brief casual conversation might be in order. But if you tackle Tim Robbins on Main Street, it's probably time to widen your social circle."

Of course, Deseret News photojournalists like Tom Smart know how to handle the etiquette of the elite. Another 1997 story, this one by LaVarr Webb, told about how Smart was asked to shoot supermodel Elle MacPherson at the Sundance Film Festival. "Smart began shooting while a reporter was interviewing MacPherson," Webb wrote. "After a few minutes she asked him to stop because she didn't think she looked very good. So he stopped. 'Then, after the interview, she took plenty of time to pose for me and I got some terrific shots. She was delightful,' Smart said."

Every year the possibilities for close encounters changes. In 1994, according to Chris Hicks, people spotted Winona Ryder, Danny DeVito, Andie MacDowell, Matthew Modine, Edward James Olmos, Ethan Hawke, Steven Soderbergh, Joel and Ethan Coen, John Cusack, Seymour Cassel, Eric Stoltz, Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh and many others.

In 2006 the stars to see were Jennifer Aniston, Ashley Judd, Sting, Neil Young and the Beastie Boys — and everybody wondered why Robin Williams, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and Katie Holmes didn't show.

This year the News' Larry Curtis said to be on the lookout for Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Ewan McGregor, Liv Tyler and Tobey Maguire.

But the easiest celebrities to spot at Sundance are the reporters — who always outnumber the movie stars. So if you see the Deseret News' Lee Benson, ask him for his autograph and don't forget to get a photo.

e-mail: mdegroote@desnews.com

Twitter: twitter.com/degroote

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