Sundance Watch: 'Me and Earl' becomes breakout hit at fest

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Posted: Jan 27, 2015 3:59 PM
Sundance Watch: 'Me and Earl' becomes breakout hit at fest

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — The tale of a loner who befriends a fellow high school student with leukemia has become the breakout hit of the Sundance Film Festival.

Fox Searchlight bought "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" after its well-received premiere Sunday for a reported $12 million, a record price for a Sundance movie.

The film stars Thomas Mann as the Greg Gaines — the "me" in the title, and British actress Olivia Cooke is the "dying girl," while newcomer RJ Cyler is "Earl" — Gaines' best friend. The audience at Sundance's Eccles theatre gave the film a five-minute standing ovation as credits rolled.

"It was really emotional. We had seen the movie before but obviously it's a really different experience seeing it with a huge group of people who have no idea what they're about to see. And then the credits start rolling and everyone stands up and starts clapping. I mean, you start bawling. It's overwhelming," Mann said.

Cooke said she was sobbing.

"Molly Shannon was next to me and her stomach kind of crumpled and she was like, 'huh huh,' bawling her eyes out," she said. "I couldn't. I was a wreck. That was embarrassing."

The film reportedly drew a bidding war from various potential distributors — likely mindful of the massive success of last summer's "The Fault in our Stars," a romance that similarly revolves around young people and cancer, which grossed nearly $325 million worldwide.

But the actors say there aren't many similarities between that movie and theirs, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and written by Jesse Andrews, who adapted his own novel.

"'Fault in our Stars' wasn't really a thing when we auditioned for it. When we started making the movie, that's when there was all this hype around it. The movie, you really can't compare them. I mean, they've got cancer in them. And I guess that's one comparative," Cooke said. "You wouldn't compare 'Titanic' and 'Battleship' because they've both got ships."

Mann, a 23-year-old in demand in Hollywood with several movies set for release this year, said "Earl" spoke to him like no other film.

"This has been the most personal project for me. I've really had to pour myself into this movie. No other script has asked as much of me as this movie has. And I don't know that it ever will. I hope it will but yeah it's going to be hard to beat a juicy role like this," he said.

Fox Searchlight said it will release the film sometime this year.