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Michelle Kung

Michelle Kung

Posted: January 19, 2008 12:19 PM

Last night, writer/director Sean McGinly's film "The Great Buck Howard," about a has-been "mentalist" (John Malkovich) and his harried assistant, made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. Also making their Sundance debuts were Colin Hanks, who stars as the put-upon assistant, and his father Tom, who not only plays his on-screen pops, but also co-produced the films with partner Gary Goetzman.

"I've known a lot of people that have come here, and I've always wanted to come and see movies," Hanks the elder said to the cluster of three non-TV writers (Props to fellow journos from EW and the Deseret Morning News!) firing questions as a unit at the end of the red carpet. "Sundance has become this phenomenon that's become the economic, as well as the artistic lifeblood of all movies. Every knuckled-headed PR guy, every agent, every executive is here to make deals, but I think all the people are here to see movies. And I think we made a good movie."

"I'm trying to keep it all inside, but I could not be happier," said Hanks the younger, who walked the carpet with a string of worry beads in his hands. "It's been five years since I first read the script, a long journey to get here."

Indeed, according to McGinly, he first began working on his partially real life-inspired film in 2003, finished shooting in October of 2006, and finished editing last summer.

"It's based on an experience that I had when I was 22," said McGinly. "The first 15 minutes of the film is exactly what I went through, but after that, it veers off into the fictional. I never had an affair with anyone that looks like [co-star] Emily Blunt."

Rounding out the carpet-walkers was Malkovich, who was wearing a bright orange jacket from his own collection. "[My character] is a kind of old-guard Hollywood, onwards-and-upwards kind of guy you see at the farmer's market who says, I used to work with Freddie Fields," said the frequent Sundance returnee. As an ex-pat, however, the actor admitted to having basically tuned out of the American political scene "since 1972."

More opinionated was Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr, who showed off his Mandarin skills both while working the press line and during his introduction of the film. "The presidential primary season has probably been more entertaining than anything you'll find at Sundance," said Huntsman. "I think it's a truly competitive field and if nothing else, it's keeping the world of journalism at all full-blossom." As for who has his vote? "I supported John McCain about two years ago, but it's an open field."

After working one of the fest's quieter red carpets -- due, in part, to the premiere's debut at the Rose Wagner Center in Salt Lake City, approximately 40 minutes (and a $100 cab ride) outside of Park City -- the cast and guests were whisked into the first of the evening's two screenings.