PARK CITY Apparently Tom Hanks thinks I'm just "some poor schlub with a notepad and pen."
Actually, the actor, director and producer was poking fun of television crews that swarmed a red carpet event before the Sundance Film Festival premiere of "The Great Buck Howard" at the Rose Wagner Center.
Evidently, a print journalist who was armed with just a notepad and pen was a novelty that Hanks just couldn't resist. (He did shake my hand like we were old friends and put his arm around me in a consoling fashion.)
And Hanks' son, Colin, was fascinated with my last name. On the red carpet, he asked me whether it's really my last name. (It is.)
A couple of days later, during a telephone interview, he asked about the reality of my last name once again. (It's still real, Colin, but thanks for asking.)
I've come to expect similar craziness during the festival. And while I had plans to see more than a dozen movies during Sundance '08, work and other obligations pared that number down considerably.
However, there were few things I really did like. "George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead" cracked me up. Maybe you just had to be there or maybe you have to be a zombie movie fan. Both "Sunshine Cleaning" and "In Bruges" had their moments as well.A few other Sundance observations:
• I was mortified when I fell asleep in my first festival movie, the Japanese comedy-drama "Megane." To be fair, I was exhausted, and it was a late-night screening.
• Amy Adams showed up for the New Frontier on Main opening Jan. 17. I didn't recognize the "Sunshine Cleaning" star until it was too late, though.• "The Deal" star William H. Macy was smart enough to use public transportation to get around Park City. And he was quite gracious to the "star gazers."
• At first I thought "Great Buck Howard" star John Malkovich was joking when he said he wanted to sneak out and catch a professional basketball game. He turned up at the Utah Jazz- L.A. Clippers game later that night.
• My biggest worry was that the very pregnant woman seated next to me during "In Bruges" was going to give birth in the theater. She was laughing uproariously at each line of dialogue. And she told me she was due the next day!
• TOO YOUNG. TOO SOON.
Without question, the saddest news of the week was the death of 28-year-old Heath Ledger, an actor who had nothing but "upside," as they say in the industry.
Ledger had recently finished up work on this summer's "Batman Begins" sequel, "The Dark Knight," in which he played the Joker. And he was already working on another film with director Terry Gilliam.
I met Ledger at my third Sundance Film Festival, for the darkly comic thriller "Two Hands" in 1999. He was very accommodating to this somewhat wet-behind-the-ears movie writer.He made a very positive first impression, and I regret that I never got another chance to interview him. He was definitely a talent, and his untimely death might make "The Dark Knight" difficult to watch.