Daniela Taplin Lundberg thought “Patti Cake$” would be a hit.
Still, the Westporter was surprised by the reception her film got last week at Sundance.
The comedy — about a white female rap star in New Jersey — generated great buzz at the famed film festival; created breakout star status for lead actress Danielle McDonald, and incited a bidding war for distribution rights. Fox Searchlight snagged the prize with a $10.5 million offer, huge by Sundance standards.
Daniela Taplin Lundberg
Taplin Lundberg — who co-produced the film — is a Sundance veteran. She was involved in the Oscar-nominated “The Kids are Alright,” and also produced “Beasts of No Nation” and “Hello, My Name is Doris.”
But this is her first time backing a film through Stay Gold Features, which she founded.
The development of her own production company — named after a classic line from “The Outsiders” — coincided with her move to Westport a year and a half ago.
She and her husband Ted had talked for a while about leaving New York, and finding space for their 3 young kids to grow.
“It all coalesced in a nice way,” she says. “Westport felt like a relaxed, beautiful and slightly unconventional place, which is exactly what we wanted.”
Even if it’s not exactly New Jersey, with those female rap stars and all.
From the 1920s “lost generation” expats in Paris to the beat poets of 1950s’ Greenwich Village, cultural history resonates with moments in time when great, creative people came together unexpectedly. Without planning to, they created movements of outsize influence.
Perhaps the most famous National Lampoon cover of all time.
That’s what happened at the National Lampoon in the 1970s. A wildly outrageous, semi-demented group of men and women joined forces to whack social taboos, from politics and race to sex and religion. Nothing was sacred.
Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and like-minded talents used an irreverent magazine to launch records and movies (“Animal House,” “National Lampoon’s Vacation”) that changed the face of comedy, culture — perhaps even America itself.
For years, filmmakers — including an Oscar-winner — tried to capture that special moment. All those projects imploded.
Now Westporter Doug Tirola and Susan Bedusa have done it.
Their company — 4th Row Films — is in the final, frantic post-production days of “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon.” The 93-minute documentary weaves never-before-seen archival footage with the magazine’s beautiful and often shocking art, in a film that is already drawing praise and attention.
The National Lampoon crowd, in the 1970s.
There’s much more to come. It premieres this Sunday (January 25) at the very prestigious, make-or-break-a-movie Sundance Film Festival.
As a kid in Westport, Tirola saw “Animal House” twice at the Fine Arts Theater. He scavenged for new issues of National Lampoon at Bill’s Smoke Shop. He hauled the now-legendary Lampoon 10th Anniversary Anthology from grad school to his 1st apartment to his home here, when he moved back.
Susan Bedusa and Doug Tirola.
After batting around the idea of a Lampoon history film, Susan Bedusa — a fellow Staples graduate, and Tirola’s longtime producing partner — convinced him to contact the Lampoon‘s owners. At a meeting in Los Angeles, they said they’d cooperate — if the original magazine owners signed off on the concept.
Coincidentally, at the height of its popularity, Lampoon publisher and “Animal House” producer Matty Simmons owned a summer home on Lamplight Lane. Belushi, Radner and other stars came here for parties.
Tirola got the rights to the story — including the artwork that was an important part of the magazine. National Lampoon launched the careers of artists who went on to work at the New Yorker, and for “The Simpsons” and “Home Alone.”
Now it’s a race to finish the sound mixing and color correction. Then it’s on to Sundance, and the Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead premiere.
Sarah Koskoff wasn’t the only Staples graduate making a splash at Sundance.
Leslye Headland — a Class of 1999 alum — caught the eye of Deadline Hollywood. The entertainment blog gave a shout-out to the “Sundance Lucky 13“: a baker’s dozen of actors and directors earning “new or renewed buzz” at the famed film festival.
Writer Brian Brooks said of the writer/director of “Bachelorette“:
Her plays have caused a stir Off-Broadway, all based on the Seven Deadly Sins. She kicked them off with “Cinephilia” (lust), followed by “Bachelorette” (gluttony) now morphed into the film starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, and Lizzy Caplan which debuted at Sundance Monday. Her next play, “Assistance” (greed) is set to open in New York soon. Her seven deadly may all make it to the screen.
Congratulations, Leslye, on your theatrical successes. Though it seems you’re also describing the current crop of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination.
“Hello I Must Be Going” — the film written by Staples alum Sarah Koskoff and filmed last summer in Westport, which premiered to a couple of sellout crowds last week at Sundance — has garnered pretty good reviews.
Salon, for example, says that although the movie starring Melanie Lynskey and Blythe Danner might be “too subtle (and too similar to several other low-key indie romcoms) to make a big splash,” it features “lovely performances and really builds strength as it goes along.”
That’s not what caught our eye, though. It was this paragraph — one worth reading through to the end:
The problem with “Hello I Must Be Going” is that Sarah Koskoff’s screenplay starts out so modestly: You think it’s just going to be a female early-midlife-crisis movie, or an older-woman/younger-guy love story, and, heck, it is both of those things. But to my taste, as the movie goes along it becomes much richer and funnier than that summary suggests, painting a satirical but sympathetic portrait of upper-crust family life in Westport, Conn., a rather toff and beachy New York suburb.
Note to Salon: “Toff” is a noun, not an adjective. Merriam-Webster calls a toff a “dandy or swell.”
Dictionary.com says a toff is “a stylishly dressed, fashionable person, especially one who is or wants to be considered a member of the upper class.”
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