Movie Star

January 24, 2017

     So we went to the Sundance Film Festival, yes, and a merry and curious time it was. Betsy and I drove down to Park City, Utah, along with two of our dogs--the most needy, the borzois Nick and Stella--on Friday, leaving Harry the maremma and Oscar the cat at home in the care of our trusted petsitter and friend Kris.  Friday night in Park City we went to a party, for cast and crew and others associated with the movie "Walking Out," made by script-writer/directors Alex and Andrew Smith, from a story I published, by the same title, about forty years ago.  Yes, forty.  The film stars Matt Bomer, doing a superb job in a role unlike any he's played before, and a fine young actor named Josh Wiggins, and Bill Pullman at his grizzled best.  Three generations of men in Montana linked by blood and distanced by pride and hurt and the burden of expectations.  It's a tale of a hunting trip that goes wrong, very wrong, and how a boy grows into a man under the necessity of circumstances.  Matt and Josh and Bill were all there, doing what starring actors do at Sundance, and Betsy and I were there too, doing what hayseeds from Montana do.  The film premiered at 6 pm on Saturday (a nice slot), to excellent reactions and reviews (including favorable comparisons to "The Revenant," which is the closest approximation though very different).  Speaking of "The Revenant," the film from my story, "Walking Out," also features a grizzly bear, though this grizzly sow is sensible as well as fearsome, she does not attack, and no bear was harmed--or even mildly insulted--in the making of the movie.  After the Saturday night showing, Betsy and I hung out a bit with Bill Pullman and his wife Tamara (fine and genuine folks who are anchored in Montana themselves) and other members of the cast and crew, including Annick Smith, distinguished Montana writer, who happens to be the mother of Alex and Andrew, the directors.  The relationship between my story and this family is longer and deeper than I can recount here.

     Park City was a madhouse.  There was a Women's March on the Saturday afternoon (hoorah, and Betsy was part of it), and then by evening Main Street was clogged with movie-goers and movie-makers and cars and snow.  We enjoyed it for a while, schmoozing with the film gang (Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins, besides doing amazing work in the movie, are extremely nice and unpretentious fellows), then melted away and back to our room, where the dogs waited to be briefed on the scene.

     That was all great fun and enormously satisfying.  To cap it, on Sunday at noon we drove south to the home of our friends Doug and Lynne Seus, who have spent a lifetime adopting, befriending, raising, and training wild animals--especially grizzlies--to be film stars.  The great grizzly Bart, who starred in the 1988 film "The Bear," made by director Jean Jacques Annaud, was Doug's protege.  That Bart has gone to his reward, but Doug and Lynne now live with and care lovingly for another grizzly also named Bart, raised from a cub, now a charming 800-pounder (at least 800, I'm guessing), who is also a star of the silver screen.  We met Bart, saw some of his rehearsal work, watched him goof off in the snow of his big outdoor area, and then lunched with Doug and Lynne.  The afternoon was so wonderful, and so private, that I'll elide here and say no more about it.

     After a quieter day in Salt Lake City, with Betsy at work in the Utah historical archives for her disseration, we drove home to Montana.  Sundance was great, but for two focused homebodies like us, 48 hours was enough.  We enjoyed the good company of some very talented, dedicated, and congenial movie stars--four of them.  Matt and Josh and Bill were nifty, and Bart was unmatchable.

     I'm vastly grateful to Alex and Andrew Smith, as well as the cast and crew, for their skills and commitment in turning my story into such a serious, gorgeous film.  See it if you can.  "Walking Out," coming soon to a theater near you, maybe.


p.s. Scott McMillion, Livingston friend of ours, journalist, editor, author of a book on the realities of grizzly attacks, plays an important cameo role at the end of the movie--as the doctor.  He nails it.  Local boy makes good on the silver screen.  Thanks, Scott!