Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”) embraced his first Sundance and “The Birth of a Nation” in Park City, Utah, last weekend at the premiere, parties and panels. He praised his co-stars, crew and Director Nate Parker, whose film was acquired right after the premiere by FOX Searchlight for $17.5 million (a Sundance record!).
When we asked Armie Hammer at “The Birth of a Nation” Premiere Party hosted by Chase Sapphire on Monday night how the screening went, he was happy to share, “We got an 8-minute standing ovation. Everyone stood up throughout the entire credits.” The movie premiered to a sold out crowd at the famous Eccles Theater with 1200+ seats so you can just imagine the energy in the room!
After continuing press interviews and film negotiations until 6:30am, the movie cast and producers made it to the Samsung Studio Panel at noon on Tuesday hosted by Deadline.com, including Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Chike Okonkwo and producers Jason Michael Berman, Kevin Turen, and Aaron L Gilbert.
Reflecting on what just happened, Director, Writer, Producer and Star Nate Parker was clearly moved. With compassion, Nate shared, “It was quite emotional because I knew what I wanted to do, but you just don’t know the impact it will have on people, and art can be so subjective, especially when you want to make a social impact.”
Deadline.com Moderator Dominic Patten explained the deep history behind this movie, “This film is utilizing the title of the infamous 1915 D.W. Griffith film ‘The Birth of a Nation’, which essentially gave rebirth to white supremacy…and people were memorized by the new medium of film.”
Armie expanded on the emotional rollercoaster of his part, “With the role of Samuel, this is a guy caught up in a system. The way you had to work your cotton fields, you couldn’t do it without the free labor. Samuel inherited that, his dad died, and then Nat Turner (played by Nate Parker) became his. And Samuel was raised well. His dad was a Pastor, and his mom was a sweet woman who taught Nat to read. He’s caught in a vicious cycle because he’s going to loose his plantation if he can’t make money. This guy is his friend, he grew up not seeing the difference between them.”
Penelope Ann Miller plays Samuel’s mother, and described her role, “It was very complex, and she in those times was a very progressive woman, a modern day woman with these parameters in that she obviously saw this gift in this young boy, whether she saw it as a way to enlighten her dull life of sitting around the house, but I think she also saw it as a blessing. She probably convinced her husband, being a Pastor, that if I teach him to read the Bible, it’s ok.”
When asked about why he chose this film, Armie confessed, “There’s a myriad of reasons I took this movie. I have worked with a bunch of great directors, and ultimately, one day, would love to direct…so I thought this is a first-time director, who’s an actor, who also wrote and stars in this movie, which is crazy….so I want to see how it goes. I want to see what catches him by surprise. I want to see what he’s ready for, I want to see what he’s not ready for. I want to see what he looses it over because it could be an incredible learning experience for me, without having to actually go thru it.”
And then there were many laughs and cheers for Nate, who sold the film after the premiere in a bidding war amongst studios.
After this Deadline.com panel, the cast and crew took photos with fans and filmmakers. We were fortunate to speak with Penelope Ann Miller and Armie Hammer. When we congratulated Armie on the film’s record-breaking acquisition, he replied that his first Sundance was so great that he wasn’t coming back because it would be hard to beat. We hope that Armie changes his mind, and can’t wait to see where this film story goes.
© @LizHKelly, National Digital Entertainment Columnist