Hustle & Flow

The first film I saw at the first Sundance I attended has become the biggest deal in Sundance history. Oh, and MTV closed it. For $16M.

“Hustle & Flow” is the only film I’ve seen thus far. I knew it was on our docket. In fact, when I landed Saturday afternoon, I thought of it as my mission. I came here to hustle. And I knew I had to check my worries at the door and go with the flow. And that’s been true. But little did I know.

There was buzz after the film. We could feel it. We knew it was right in our audience’s wheelhouse. And when we heard that Viacom CEO Tom Freston was in the house, well, we just nodded and thought, ‘That makes sense.” Well, ends up they’d closed the deal by 5 a.m. Sunday morning. Everywhere we went yesterday, we were singing the hook to the soundtrack’s hit, “It’s hard out here for a pimp / When you’re tryin’ to find money for the rent.” And everywhere we walked in Park City, we spotted one of the film’s stars in front of a camera. It was the front page of The Hollywood Reporter this morning. And by noon, we’d hatched a plan to feed some broll and bites back to New York for a MTV News hit. I just dropped off the tapes at FedEx.

Frankly, it’s kind of exciting, even though I’m just a cog in the mighty Viacom wheel. At the end of the day, the film has a great message: believe in your dreams. And I’d say that’s the primary take-away message of my time here. People mortgage their houses to make these movies. They give up everything for their dream. Some, like “Hustle & Flow” director Craig Brewer, find a happy ending. Others … well, I haven’t met them yet.

Anyway, here’s what today’s looked like. So far.

10:02 AM – I spot a Baldwin in line at the Starbucks. I’m not sure which one. I’m too busy buying medium milds for the team and a vanilla latte, of course, for Alyssa.

11:42 AM – I am the most covetted man in Park City walking down Main Street with four coffees. I meet up with the crew at Renee’s. Alyssa introduces me to a handsome young blonde guy. “What’s your name?” I ask. “Ben.” “Oh, I can remember that. Nice to meet you.” Ends up he’s Benjamin McKenzie from “The OC.” Oops.

12:04 PM – “Junebug” director Phil Morrison confirms that Benjamin McKenzie has officially changed his name to Ben. Alyssa and I agree that this will make a fabulous MTV News brief.

12:24 PM – It’s all about “Hustle & Flow” in the Premiere Magazine Lounge tent. The cast is milling about, beaming. There’s a big box of brand-new embroidered jackets in the middle of the room. Taryn Manning is lounging on a couch. That dude Jonas something — you know, the guy from the dave Matthew video? — rubs shoulders with George Wipple. I sneak photos of Taryn.

12:42 PM – Corey interviews David Schwimmer outside the Premiere tent. It’s 50 degrees and sunny. I snap photos. Josh snags a Naked juice.

1:32 PM – Waiting on Sean Astin, John Goodman, Mary Steenburgen, Ernie Hudson (the dude from “Ghostbusters”!), and the rest of the cast of “Marilyn Hotchkinss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School.” Corey and Jason hit craft services while Alyssa and I arrange to ship some “Hustle & Flow” news back to New York.

2:07 PM – John Goodman makes a duck sound and says, “I’m non-pedal in this film.”

2:11 PM – Mary Steenburgen is my new Mrs. Robinson.

2:12 PM – Marisa Tomei is wicked cute. Great skin. Just my type. Still, I don’t introduce myself.

2:22 PM – The entire “Charm School” cast blows off our one-on-ones, which sucks ‘cuz Jason’s shot is beautiful. Corey’s pissed.

2:41 PM – Corey, Jason and I walk up Main Street to the ASCAP Music Cafe to watch singer/songwriter/producer Linda Perry perform. She sits alone at a grand piano on a small stage and performs her Four Non Blondes hit “What’s Going On” for the first time in a decade. Fifty people hear.

2:52 PM – Josh calls. Ludacris’ entourage has ditched ’em. They need a ride. I walk out of Linda’s performance mid-song.

3:02 PM – Former MTV VJ Simon Rex steps out of The Egyptian Theater in a white fur coat. And his hair is perfect.

3:04 PM – I pass Thora Birch on the sidewalk.

3:49 PM – “Hustle & Flow” broll and Ludacris interview bites are en route to New York. For $65.

3:56 PM – Sweet Jesus Up In Heaven! I discover a new flavor of Gatorade at the Maverick Deli on the corner of Kearns & Bonanza: rasberry lemonade. Sweet!

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