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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

A Good 'Listener': Stettner Premieres Mystery with Collette, Maupin

This first weekend at Sundance is totally nuts, with anticipation levels surpassed only by the sheer volume of people squeezing into theaters and wait lines to catch dozens on dozens of premieres. Take Saturday night’s Eccles Theater showing of The Night Listener, with about 1,300 filmgoers packed in for Patrick Stettner’s tale of a late-night New York radio show host ensnared in a phone relationship with a mysterious young fan. Star Robin Williams was a no-show (Stettner passed along Williams’s “crazy love” from the actor’s location shoot in Canada), but co-star Toni Collette and writers Armistead Maupin and Terry Anderson made the trip and greeted their audience following the screening.

Toni Collette and Listeners (L-R) Patrick Stettner, Terry Anderson and Armistead Maupin (Photo: STV)

As the caretaker of Williams’s ill phone friend–a 14-year-old who styles a gripping, soon-to-be-published abuse memoir of increasingly questionable veracity–Collette disappears into blindness, loneliness, clinginess and a general devastation that is as creepy as any of the dark revelations Williams discovers in his quest to track young Pete down. “The story was just so unbelievably intense,” Collette said when asked how she prepared. “I think basically this woman is very needy and wants love, and I think it’s a very basic need to take it to the nth degree. I feel sorry for her. And I don’t know how I prepared for it.”
Stettner jumped to the podium. “She’s Toni Collette,” he said. “She can do anything.”
There you have it. I, on the other hand, am fairly limited in what I can disclose without giving the story away, although I can safely say that Lisa Rinzler’s cinematography triumphs mightily in a gorgeous duel with underexposure, yielding a dark, saturated color palette you might have expected had Gordon Willis shot a Hitchcock film. And on a semi-related note for those of you Maupin fans reading from Park City, the ever-engaging storyteller will be signing books Monday morning at Dolly’s Bookstore on Main Street. The fun starts at 11 a.m., and here is hoping your wait line moves a little more fluidly than those at the theaters. It is about time you got a break.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon