The Stars of Napa Valley Film Festival 2017

Daniel Dayao
By: Daniel Dayao

If you know us, we love movies. So when the Napa Valley Film Festival rolled out the red carpet, the Nerds had to be a part of it! The Napa Valley Film Festival has always delivered Oscar-worthy movies and talent to Napa County, but this year was extra special due to the catastrophic fire that consumed much of Napa County and Sonoma County. This festival was a sign that the rebuilding effort was alive and strong…and that Hollywood had our back.

The festivities started on November 5 and celebrated all that Napa County had to offer. There were wine tastings, culinary demos from some of the world’s best chefs, and the most buzz-worthy films the industry had to offer scattered around different viewing parties all over the county. And we were there to give you the coverage you need!

On Day one, the festival kicked off with a showing of Oscar contender The Shape of Water directed by Guillermo del Toro. We ran into one of its stars, Michael Stuhlbarg, and he discussed what it was like working with this talented director.

“I loved working with Guillermo, he was our fearless leader. I have been likening him to a general, he knew what he wanted to do, he knew how to get there, and he championed everyone to help realize his wonderful vision.”

This wasn’t the only film that was featured starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Call Me By Your Name received a lot of award-winning buzz, also. And he talked about how he prepared for his role.

“…I asked a ton of questions. I tried to put myself in the shoes of who I was supposed to be playing and you tell the truth as much as you can.”

Luckily, we were able to see the film and it is definitely a must-see. It was beautiful, captivating, and will win several awards!

This festival is known for its Celebrity Tributes. And on Thursday night, we celebrated the achievements of Filmmaker Nancy Meyers, the Humanitarian efforts of Ian Somerhalder and Nikki Reed, Spotlight honoree Michael Stuhlbarg, and the career of  Michael Shannon.

Access Hollywood’s Natalie Morales was there to host the tribute and asked her if she still gets starstruck going to these events.

“…it’s interesting, Sting was one of those celebrities that left me starstruck. But, I met him last year and got pulled on stage to sing with him! I was like ‘are you kidding me? I’m singing with you?’ But he was the nicest person, so he’s just a normal person like all of us, but then again maybe he’s not so normal(laughs.) I do have to say that to me it’s not so much the celebrities that leave me starstruck, it’s the people who are doing really great work. I think it changes daily, it’s the real people…the ones who volunteer, those people I am in awe of.”

Speaking of great work and people who dedicate their lives to help others, we asked Ian Somerhalder and Nikki Reed about the humble beginnings of their foundation that seeks to help those in need.

Nikki: “…we have separate stories, they start from being young and then at some point we merged in more ways than one. We ended up getting married and marrying our passions together as well. But, I started in animal rescue 10-15 plus years ago, really on a small scale just starting in your own backyard. There is nothing more wonderful than marrying someone that is crazy about saving animals as you are.”

Ian: “We started this dream really young, but as far as organizing this foundation based on that belief. Philanthropy is multi-faceted. It’s not just about saving animals, it’s about creating a better mankind, a better environment. Compassion for animals will always roll into compassion for one another and compassion for the environment. It’s an amazing thing that we get to do and saving little and big creatures is what our lives are all about.”

We also spoke with some of the up and coming stars of Hollywood that attended the tribute.

Marvel’s new show Runaways is set to hit Hulu later this month and one of its stars, Gregg Sulkin, talked about what makes this show different and exciting.

“This show has a glossy darkness to it. It’s fantastic, it has a lot of heart. It’s a mix of Gossip Girl, The O.C., and Riverdale in a Marvel universe. This show is like a teen drama but it’s not your typical teen drama. We have some great adult actors. It has some gravitas to it. And hopefully it becomes a very respected, well-watched TV show and you should definitely watch it!”

We asked him about his character on the show Chase Stein and if he relates to him.

“I relate to some parts of his personality. He has anger issues, which I do not relate to. I like to think that I’m a calmer human being. He is sporty and athletic, and I was an athlete when I was younger, so I relate to that. He comes from a family that things aren’t perfect and things aren’t what they seem. Thankfully, in my personal life, I have an incredible and very supportive family. Chase doesn’t really have that. Some things are relatable, and other things didn’t resonate with me.”

From what we have seen, this is just the beginning for Mr. Sulkin, and he mentioned who his biggest influences were.

“…Dustin Hoffman, Robert DeNiro is one of our greats. When it comes to the younger generation, I think Andrew Garfield is a fantastic actor.”

And finally that night, we spoke with Austin Stowell, star of upcoming movies The Long Home and 12 Strong starring Chris Hemsworth. We asked him what it was like preparing for 12 Strong.

“…it was heavy. We were down in New Mexico. Going through a month of horse training, a month of military training…we were out there with active and current Navy Seals, members of special forces. I really got into character reading this book about a Navy Seal named Adam Brown, it’s called Fearless. Every day out there, I was thinking about Adam.”

But the night was still young for us, we drove back to Uptown Theater in Napa to speak with Lord of the Rings star, Elijah Wood. He was promoting his movie 78/52, a documentary about the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Psycho. Elijah is a huge fan of Hitchcock and went on to explain why he admired him.

“…his use of cinema to create the feeling of suspense, dread, and horror. He elicits a really strong emotional response from his filmmaking. A lot of that is through imagery and his use of cinematic language. And in this film(78/52), its so extraordinary that it was 78 set-ups. It was 52 cuts, and it took 7 days to shoot the scene. It uses the cinematic language to make it into a magic trick. There have been people who have seen this scene and thought they saw nudity and they thought they saw the knife penetrate her skin, but they are all optical illusions. The imagery is so powerful, it’s really uncomfortable and unsettling. You can see it was really deeply unsettling around the time it was made. It’s a great example of what Hitchcock can do.”

Later in the weekend we met with Jason Ritter, star of Kevin (Probably) Saves the World), a show that was just renewed for more episodes. He spoke about his new miniseries, The Long Road Home. We asked him what it was like to work on the project.

“…I read the book by Martha Raddatz. And I got in touch with Troy Denomy, who I actually play in the series. We had a short boot camp, we learned how to handle our weapons, some of the procedures of clearing rooms. It was immersive, we lived on the military base in Fort Hood. Everyone was determined to tell this story as truthfully as possible. This sort of brotherhood formed among the cast, we supported each other and built each other up.”

The night was definitely also a family affair. We spoke with Lea Thompson and Madelyn Deutch about what it was like working together on the film.

Madelyn: “It was really fun, it was like a pipe dream…you don’t think it’s gonna really happen. But, we worked really hard TO make it happen. So, when you get to set, you are just really grateful. We were really happy to be there.”

Lea: “We had such a great time, it’s been four years of working together. I mean, they have to return my calls, they are my kids (laugh.)

We asked about any funny “I am your mom” moments.

Madelyn: “We all tried to be pretty professional. There wasn’t really any strong-arming. It was just weird sometimes because it would be my mother yelling from across the set when my sister and I started cracking up when we were trying to get through a scene, we were starting to lose the light in the scene…we were running out of time. Only then, she would pull the ‘mom card’ and say ‘we need to get through the shot, stop laughing at each other,’ that was a little bit ridiculous(laughs.)

Finally, we fangirled on one of Lea’s first films and if it could be made into a series.

Dan: One of the first films I watched as a kid was Howard the Duck. With all these comic stars getting their own shows. You think this movie could be made into a series?

Lea: “Of course….and I want to be the one to direct it.”

The gala was starting to hit full force, but before we walked in, we spoke with Analeigh Tipton and what it was like making the transition from model to actress.

“I never saw myself as a model. I was 19 and was asked to do the show. It seemed exciting and fun. But, I moved to LA to become a writer and a director. Modeling never came naturally to me. There was nothing about the industry that I was really drawn to, in fact, I felt very outside of it. I fell into acting because, after Top Model, I missed too much school, needed a job and got with a commercial agency. One thing led to another and I ended up acting. But, it took me a long to even say I was an actor. Really, my family wasn’t the most excited about it. So the transition was non-existent in my eyes. The transition from filmmaker to actress is much more significant and hopefully, now it gets to meet in the middle.”

And we spoke about her experience working with Hollywood stars Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

“It taught me that actors are not what or had stereotyped that as. They are people with families and they are really kind. Steve Carell has been one of the kindest people you could possibly imagine, they take their work very seriously. Every person on that project studied their craft and knew it incredibly well. Just the foundation that people were kind. From there, I realized that you could be an actor and you didn’t have to play into this really uncomfortable Hollywood thing I had in my head. He taught me groundedness and honestly, I respected his skill.”

The only thing left to do was party…and that we did. It was a truly unforgettable weekend.

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