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To be young and starring at Sundance

Two actresses -- one's an 'Intern,' one plays a virgin -- take on Park City


January 24, 2000
Web posted at: 6:03 p.m. EST (2303 GMT)

By Jamie Allen
CNN Interactive Senior Writer

PARK CITY, Utah (CNN) -- This is the first time Dominique Swain has been to the Sundance Film Festival. Her movie, "Intern," is screening in the American Spectrum section of the event.

But the actress says she's not going to get worked up over what people think of the film, an independent romantic comedy set in the shark-infested waters of Manhattan's fashion scene. She's just here to have fun.

"I'm on vacation here. I'm not here to learn anything. Anything I pick up is just lint," Swain says, laughing.

Sundance has become a sort of rite of passage for young actors and actresses like Swain. It's the perfect setting for them -- spending days promoting their films and telling their life stories to the hordes of journalists that converge here each year while finding time to hit the slopes.

Read Jamie Allen's Postcards From Sundance

Tammy Faye at Sundance: 'I'm having fun!'

Back in black: Sundance 2000 basks in 'commercial' independence

A brief history of Sundance

Sundance films in competition

"I went snowboarding yesterday morning," she says during an interview Monday morning at the Yarrow Resort in Park City. "I'm not a good snowboarder. I'm just getting the hang of it, and I went with my friend -- it was his first day. By the end of the day, he was beating me down the mountain. I guess everyone learns at their own pace, but I just hate to think my pace is slower than anybody else's."

'She is unbelievable'

Swain's career pace is considerably faster than most others. She's the one who, at age 15, won the title role of "Lolita" in Adrian Lyne's 1997 remake of the controversial Vladimir Nabokov novel. And she avoided the fate of Sue Lyon , the actress who starred in the 1962 version directed by Stanley Kubrick. Lyon followed the high-profile role with a string of forgettable films.

Swain, now 19, has several movies coming out this year, including "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and "Happy Campers." "Intern," also starring Kathy Griffin, Billy Porter and Ben Pullen, is still in need of a distributor.

Swain plays the title role, a 23-year-old fashion magazine intern who deals with the witches running the show while remaining true to herself and falling in love.

"She is unbelievable," says the film's director, Michael Lange. "First of all, working with her is great. She was always on time, she knew her lines, really prepared.

"The element that she added wasn't really on the page," Lange says. "It was the theme that to me is the most powerful, which is her positiveness, her honesty that comes through. She's the one who did that, brought that to the film."

'It was terrifying'

Another actress getting high marks for her two films -- one at Sundance and one at Slamdance -- is Lauren Ambrose. The 21-year-old stars in the campy "Psycho Beach Party," a Park City at Midnight entry at Sundance, and the coming-of-age tale "Swimming."

In "Psycho Beach Party" -- a parody of '50s horror films, '60s beach-blanket flicks and '70s thrashers -- she plays Chicklet, a 16-year-old girl who's never been kissed and suffers from multiple personalities, including a sexually adventurous woman and a black clerk. It's based on a play by famed New York theater figure Charles Busch, who also stars in the movie -- in drag -- as a female police captain investigating a series of murders.

Ambrose hadn't seen the film until it screened at Sundance on Saturday night.

"Try seeing yourself switching ... from S&M dominatrix to black checkout girl to Chicklet, and in front of tired people at midnight for the very first time ... at Sundance!" she says. "It was terrifying."

She says she loved her role in the film.

"It was opportunity to play and fly and do this big comedy that I've never really done and play these different roles that I've had in me for a long time," says Ambrose. "It was a dream for me.

"This is definitely showing something that a lot of actors don't get to show -- wacky comedy stuff. Also, who's ever seen a movie like this?" she says.

Ambrose hasn't had time to ski or snowboard yet. For her, Sundance has been a blur of interviews, which will pick up again when "Swimming" screens at the end of the week at Slamdance. "I'm really tired," she admits.

Swain, meantime, plans more snowboarding: "I'm having a grand old time," she says.

Sundance reveals 2000 lineup
December 3, 1999
On screen in Austin: Your future as a filmmaker
October 13, 1999
Review: 'Blair Witch' not just a walk in the woods
July 22, 1999

2000 Sundance Film Festival
Slamdance Film Festival
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