January 23rd, 2008
12:26 PM ET

Sundance in shock over Heath Ledger

From CNN Entertainment Producer Matt Carey:

A terrible pall has been cast over the Sundance Film Festival by the shocking death of Heath Ledger. The festival is just days away from handing out its awards, but the normally celebratory mood has been replaced by a feeling of sadness and almost dread. Everyone around here looks like they’ve been kicked in the stomach.

A lot of stars with films at the festival had a personal connection to Ledger - no one more so than his ex-fiancee Michelle Williams, whose Sundance film is "Incendiary." She never came to Park City to promote it. But Naomi Watts, who was romantically involved with him at one point and co-starred with Ledger in "Ned Kelly," was in town when the news hit. She later canceled all of her interviews to promote her film, "Funny Games."

Some stars here have been gracious enough to share their feelings about Ledger as an actor and a person. Lukas Haas, who told us he had met Ledger several times, described him as a "very sweet" person. Jacqueline Bissett (who, like Haas, stars in the Sundance film "Death in Love") said she met Ledger in Venice, Italy, where he premiered his film "Casanova." She called him an actor of tremendous talent and potential.

Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci ("Blind Date") also paid tribute to him as a performer. Tucci said he was especially impressed by Ledger’s work in "Brokeback Mountain," which earned Ledger his only Oscar nomination.

The Sundance Film Festival hasn’t been pleased with reporters asking questions about Ledger. When we came to the premiere of "Death in Love" Tuesday evening, a Sundance press officer threatened to revoke our credentials if we asked any questions about the late actor. She said we were there only to ask questions about the film. I find that akin to someone in the White House telling the press corps what they can and can’t ask the President. I don't think it serves us as a society to restrict what the media can ask in public settings.

It's difficult to ask stars for their thoughts on such an occasion and yet I can't help thinking, who better to characterize an actor's contributions than a fellow actor? In times of tragedy people take comfort from hearing what others are feeling and thinking on the matter, and it's really in that spirit that I ask - not out of a salacious desire to pry.

None of this is meant to imply that members of the media should ask questions in anything but a sensitive and respectful manner. And I respect any star's right to decline to answer a question, be it about Heath Ledger or any other issue. But to prevent us from asking is a form of prior restraint.

- Matt Carey 

Filed under: Uncategorized
January 23rd, 2008
09:30 AM ET

Obama slammed at Sundance

From Entertainment Producer Matt Carey in Park City, Utah:

The Sundance Film Festival is generally about art and commerce, but politics wasn’t far away Monday night.

Mike Gravel, the former Alaska senator who's running a quixotic campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, turned up at the Sundance Film Festival that evening. While the leading Democratic Presidential candidates were debating in South Carolina, Gravel was sitting on a panel sponsored by the Creative Coalition.

We talked afterwards, and true to form, he was very outspoken.

He slammed Sen. Barack Obama, saying he was "inconsistent" on the issues and that his "lack of experience shows." He added, "I don't think in many respects he knows what he's saying or the ramifications of what he's saying."

Ouch! I guess he won’t be on the short list of vice-presidential nominees if Obama gets the nomination.

But Gravel didn't stop there. He also slammed CNN for keeping him out of the South Carolina debate, calling it a "conspiracy between the network" and the Democratic National Committee. And he said he was bored during the debates, even the ones in which he participated.

Perhaps most surprisingly, he said it won’t make any difference who is elected President. He suggested it's going to be the "same old-same old" either way.

Filed under: Sundance Film Festival
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