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PARK CITY - "I found a state park in Texas that had burnt in a forest fire, and before it started growing again, I wanted to film a movie in it." That is the simple thought process that led director David Gordon Green to make "Prince Avalance," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Sunday afternoon. It was an area -- Bastrop State Park, southeast of Austin -- that he knew from hiking and the atmosphere spoke to him.
So Green grabbed the remake rights to an Icelandic film called "Either Way," about two road administration employees who spend a summer painting yellow lines on a rural highway, called up a pair of actor friends in Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch and lit out for the territory. "I wanted to remake that because I could do that tomorrow," he says. "I just grabbed a couple actors and made a little two-hander that we could put together economically and it was a really efficient way to put a movie together."
It also represents a return to some roots for Green. The director launched out of film school in 2000 with the critically acclaimed "George Washington" and made his way through the indie world with small films like "All the Real Girls," "Undertow" and "Snow Angels" before crossing over into more commercial territory with efforts like "Pineapple Express," "Your Highness" and "The Sitter." He says he has felt somewhat hand-tied by the process of bigger-budgeted movies and how long it takes to get them through the system and development process.
"You pitch your idea," he says. "You write the script. You do your notes and then you go into production and you do your editing. You do your testing. It's a year, year-and-a-half before you're done with your movie. I think I had this idea Super Bowl Sunday last year and we were sound mixing in July. It was fun to just kind of do something quick and really energetic and of the moment, and improvisational."
Indeed, Green reminds, he made two films over the last year, "Prince Avalanche" and "Joe" (the latter starring Tye Sheridan, who popped up in his old schoolmate Jeff Nichols' "Mud" at the fest this year). It took him less time to crank those two out than any one of the more expensive projects. "So it's kind of cool in a way," he says, and certainly in the spirit of Sundance.
The new film is very much a palette cleanser, with that in mind. It's leaner even than his earliest work and an interesting marriage of his tendencies in both worlds. But while it was a remake, Green and his actors certainly put a lot of themselves into it. Particularly Green. "The movie's kind of a dialogue between me and me in terms of these two characters and that kind of surreal emotional journey," he says. "There's a romanticized version of adulthood and then the frustrations of youth and how they connect to each other over this series of days."
And the setting spoke to that thematically in addition to atmospherically. "We didn't want it to be too green," he says of the rush to get into Bastrop and knock out principle photography. "The landscape was caught in this kind of beautiful rebirth after the devastating fire. And it was refreshing for all of us.
"We can all get caught up in some of the certainly more lucrative larger films, but with that comes the tedious demands and expectations. So this was fun to be where nobody was looking. It wasn't done in 'secret'; we just had no business to talk to anybody about it. So we just went and made a movie. You can totally do that any day of the week, which is cool."
"Prince Avalanche" screens again at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday and Saturday.