Kevin Bacon has returned to the state where he made his biggest movie hit - "Footloose," which was shot in the Provo area.
But this time he's in Utah not to shoot a movie, but to help boost one that is playing out of competition in the United States Film Festival in Park City."The Big Picture" is the festival's "Mystery Movie," showing Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. The satire lampoons the movie industry and Bacon stars as a young just-out-of-film-school director whose integrity is, naturally, compromised by the Hollywood studio system.
The film has some very funny scenes and lots of in-jokes that will certainly appeal to the independent filmmakers who will no doubt compose most of the audience at Saturday's premiere. Bacon will be there, accompanied by the film's co-writer/director Christopher Guest, and Guest's wife Jamie Lee Curtis.
Guest is best known for his acting roles, primarily as the villainous "six-fingered man" in "The Princess Bride." He was also a regular on "Saturday Night Live" and, in skits with Billy Crystal, popularized the phrase, "I hate when that happens."
"The Big Picture" is low-key, offbeat, very wry and frequently hilarious. Whether it will appeal to a mainstream audience when it is released in theaters during the summer remains to be seen, but Guest and Bacon don't feel the in-joke Hollywood themes will be a problem.
Guest says TV programs like "Entertainment Tonight" have raised public consciousness about show business jargon and the business vs. art attitude of movie studios. "People in small towns know more about it than I do probably.
"There's no section of the script that deals with any kind of jargon that will confuse anyone. There are situations of power and megalomaniacal behavior, but never any business terms. We all know people like this who are strange or stupid or whatever."
Bacon adds that people in show business need to have their sense of self-importance deflated occasionally. "We're not finding a cure for cancer, we're just making movies for entertainment. Yet it's amazing how rarely people in the movie business are able to laugh at themselves."
Bacon says he wanted to work with Guest because he enjoyed "This is Spinal Tap," a "rockumentary" spoof that Guest co-wrote and starred in. "I didn't know Christopher, but `Spinal Tap' is one of my favorite movies. I've seen it 20 or 30 times. And I read the (`Big Picture') script and I don't think he really wanted to see me for the picture. He didn't have the money to pay a star and he didn't want to see stars. It was a small-budget flick. But I said, `Look, let's not talk about money, let's talk about the movie.' "
It wasn't the first time Bacon had taken a reduced salary to act in a low-budget film - "End of the Line" and "Lemon Sky," two of his most recent films, were also independent productions. And he first gained prominence in a little film that went on to great success - "Diner." All were films by first-time directors.
"That seems to be my forte, actually, working with directors on their first pictures. But Chris was terrific. Obviously, being an actor himself, he was very sensitive to the actors and concentrates on the performance side - and there's a lot going on in this picture."
Bacon was the first choice for the lead in "The Big Picture," Guest says, and in fact he says all of the actors were the ones he wanted for their roles.
Directing a feature film has been an ambition of Guest's, one he's been working toward for some years. "I've been writing as well as acting for a long time and it seemed like a natural evolution of that process, a way to have the most control you can have." During his "Saturday Night Live" days he directed eight short films for that program, and later an episode of Shelley Duvall's "Faerie Tale Theater."
But Christopher Guest the actor doesn't show up in "The Big Picture," though he did write a character for himself. "I cut myself out of my own movie. I did have a role, but my scene didn't really work. It was the ultimate sacrifice."
The Saturday screening in Park City will be the first public screening of the film and Guest says he's anxious to assess the audience reaction. "In dealing with comedy you just don't know how it's going to work. You only know based on your own gut feeling, which is there when you write it."
Though he is obviously intense about his work, Guest knows there is more to life than making movies. And he looks forward to respites at his home in Ketchum, Idaho. "I take skiing and fly fishing seriously, but I don't think I take comedy seriously. There's nothing worse than lecturing on what you think about comedy. When you're young you think the only things that are funny are what you do, but fortunately I've gotten over that - a major hurdle I think.
SATURDAY'S BEST BETS:
Aside from "The Big Picture," there are many other interesting films scheduled Saturday in Park City - including the documentary competition films "Isadora Duncan," "Coverup," "Comic Book Confidential" and "Lodz Ghetto," and the dramatic competition films "Heathers," "True Love," "Apartment Zero" and "84 Charlie Mopic."
The United States Film Festival is presented by the Sundance Institute, in cooperation with Utah Film Development. Festival officials suggest you phone ahead to see that seats are still available for the movies you want to see and to reserve tickets. The festival information line is 322-1700.
Here's the schedule for the final two days:
Egyptian: "Prisoners of Inertia," 10 a.m.; "sex, lies and videotape," 4 p.m.; "The Big Picture," 4 p.m.; "Heathers," 7 p.m.; "Miracle Mile," 10 p.m.
Holiday I: "One A.M." & "A Day's Pleasure," 10:30 a.m.; "Isadora Duncan," 1:30 p.m.; "Salute to Jay Ward, Program II," 4:30 p.m.; "Coming Out" & "Coverup," 7:30 p.m.; "Motel," 10:30 p.m.
Holiday II: "The Laserman," 10:15 a.m.; "The Summer of Miss Forbes," 1:15 p.m.; "Comic Book Confidential," 4:15 p.m.; "True Love," 7:15 p.m.; "Love Streams," 10:15 p.m.
Holiday III: "Husbands," 10 a.m.; "Some Girls," 1 p.m.; "Lodz Ghetto," 4 p.m.; "Apartment Zero," 7 p.m.; "Funny," 10 p.m.
Prospector: "Journey to Spirit Island," 10 a.m.; Seminar: "Have Independents Lost Their Social Conscience?" 1 p.m.; "84 Charlie Mopic," 4 p.m.; "Dead Man Out," 7 p.m.; "Heavy Petting," 10 p.m.
Sundance: "Powwow Highway," 7 p.m.
Egyptian: WINNER OF THE DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION, 11 a.m.; WINNER OF THE DRAMATIC COMPETITION, 2 p.m.; "Powwow Highway," 5 p.m.; "True Love," 8 p.m.
Holiday I: "The Rink" & "Sunnyside," 11:30 a.m.; "Who Killed Vincent Chin?" 2:30 p.m.; "Lightning Over Braddock," 5:30 p.m.; "Rogues Gallery," 8:30 p.m.
Holiday II: "Gloria," 11:15 a.m.; "Trust Me," 2:15 p.m.; "Two-Lane Blacktop," 5:15 p.m.; "Lobster Man From Mars," 8:15 p.m.
Holiday III: "A Woman Under the Influence," 2 p.m.; "John Huston," 5 p.m.; "Cheap Shots," 8 p.m.
Prospector: "Opening Night," 11 a.m.; "Journey to Spirit Island," 2 p.m.; "The Big Picture," 5 p.m.; "Thelonious Monk," 8 p.m.