5 Famous Sundance Film Festival Breakouts


With today kicking off the 29th year of the annual festival, let’s look back at the actors and directors whose careers began in Park City.

In no particular order:

1. Jon Heder  (Napoleon Dynamite, 2004)

Iowa based Actor Jon Heder was just helping out college friend and director Jared Hess with this low budget comedy, when it became the darling of Sundance, gaining studio distribution when Fox Searchlight snatched it up. Since then he’s been in 18 films, with 2 more due out in 2013.

2.  Kevin Smith (Clerks, 1994)

Believe or not, Kevin Smith might not be a part of our lives without Sundance. The writer/director, who’s developed a cult following for his ‘View Askewniverse’, dropped out of college and put all of his tuition money, as well as funds gained by selling a large portion of his comic book collection, into the black and white, now revered, comedy. It won the “Filmmakers Trophy” at the festival and acquired distribution by Miramax, who has been Smith’s long running studio partner.

3.  Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight, 2000)

Catching the lucky break most actors would kill for, the now Tough Lady Savant had her career catapulted from her first film role ever.  She beat 350 girls at an open casting call and ‘Girlfight’ won the Grand Jury prize at the Festival. She has since gone on to be a part of both the “Fast & Furious” and “Resident Evil” franchises, but more importantly- snagged a cameo in the Ja Rule ‘Always on Time’ music video.

4.) The Coen Brothers (Blood Simple, 1985)

Highly revered sibling filmmakers, Joel and Ethan Coen, have given us so many incredible pieces of cinema, (‘The Big Lebowski’, ‘Raising Arizona’, ‘Fargo’, ‘No Country for Old Men’, ‘The Hudsucker Proxy’, the list goes on), its unreal to imagine them not a part of the pop culture universe. They took the cake at the 2nd annual film festival and have been making John Goodman’s life better ever since.


5.) Christopher Nolan (Following, 1999)

What a difference a couple years make, as the ‘Dark Knight’ director shows. He received high praise for ‘Following’ , screened at Sundance’s smaller sub festival, Slamdance, in 1999. Just 2 years later, ‘Memento’ was given a special screening at the main festival in 2001, and audiences around the world have been reaping the benefits ever since. Every one of his releases in the last decade have received immense Critical praise, including ‘Inception’, ‘The Prestige’, and of course the most recent Batman franchise.

NATION: What movies are you most looking forward to in the upcoming year?