Film Festival audiences
give hydro movie a big thumbs up
PARK CITY, Utah As I stood in front of Mileti's
Restaurant on Main Street in Park City, Utah, reminiscing with an old
friend from this small ski town, a group of people passed by wearing
hats prominently displaying the words "Madison, Sundance 2001."
As they walked by, they jokingly yelled, "Hey Davey!"
My friend, his real name James Fields, waved and answered back to the
"Madison" trio. After they passed by, he told us of a small
part he had landed in a film that would be debuting at the festival.
He had moved to Los Angeles four years ago to test his hand at acting
"I don't think they remember my real name," he joked. "I
played a hydroplane boat driver named Davey in the film."
I replied with a laugh, "Davey, do you know where I am originally
from?" He looked puzzled. I continued, "Madison, Indiana."
Next thing I know I'm standing next to fellow Hoosier John Mellencamp
at the premiere party for the movie "Madison." The party had
a flavor much like that of the City of Madison itself. It was laid back
Much different from the Hollywood movie premiere glitz and glamour you
see on television, this party had a hometown feel. Blue jeans replaced
tuxedos, heaping plates of nachos replaced the expensive gourmet cuisine
and margaritas on the rocks were the drink of choice.
Mellencamp enjoyed a cigarette and plate of nachos in the corner with
his wife while in the next booth, "Madison" star Jim Caviezel
conversed with friends. Director William Bindley mingled with the crowd
making no real scene about the next few hours when his hard work would
be displayed for hundreds to see. No one really made a fuss about the
stars who were present. Crew members, filmmakers and hydroplane drivers
from around the world enjoyed the night.
After the party, the cast and crew funneled into the Eccles Theater,
where hundreds, anticipating the films debut and world premiere, had
already filled the seats. "Sundancers," as locals call
them, sat anxiously, awaiting their next movie as the room buzzed with
titles of independent films seen earlier in the day.
Going to the movies is usually a way to lose yourself in other parts
of the world. But this time, when audience members entered the theater,
they found themselves in a little place called Madison, Ind. As the
lights went down and the film started, I found myself moving toward
the edge of my seat. Scenes from the river town where I grew up filled
the screen. I never felt the back of my chair again.
On the screen appeared Madison landmarks and landscapes that were both
breathtaking and inviting. And if you watched closely enough,
familiar faces passed in the background.
It was wild to see the likes of Tony Steinhardt, Markt Lytle and Betsey
Vonderheide, just to name a few, on the big screen. I drove the people
sitting around me crazy as I pointed out local favorites, such as the
Broadway Fountain, the Brown Gym, Rogers Drug Store and, of course,
Hinkle's Sandwich Shop.
There's really only one word to describe what it was like to sit and
watch my hometown look like a Hollywood fairytale š "cool!"
The movie brought back much more than all the memories of growing up
in Madison. It also relived the excitement of those hydroplane boats
racing up and down the Mighty Ohio. By now you probably know the story
of the 1971 Gold Cup and the determination of the Miss Madison crew
to make its hometown lady the "Queen of the Ball."
As it unfolded, I looked around the theater to see a group of filmgoers
truly enjoying themselves. Most visitors who make their way to downtown
Madison fall in love with the scenery š and this time it was no different.
The audience chuckled with the characters portraying the citizens of
Madison, gasped as the hydroplanes raced furiously down the river and
expressed excitement as the Miss Madison made history in our small river
I'm not old enough to remember the Miss Madison winning the Gold Cup,
but I can remember the enthusiasm that filled the banks of the Ohio
every time she took to the water. And at the Sundance Film Festival,
that same excitement filled the Eccles Theater. It was like being taken
back to the crowds of people lined before the riverfront canopies to
catch a glimpse of the boats.
Just like standing there, the crowd cheered louder as the boats raced
toward the finish line. As they approached the final seconds of the
race and the checkered flag waved, the audience erupted in cheers. All
hail the Miss Madison!
In the Official Sundance Viewers Guide, the movie was described as a
"standard Hollywood cliche, a film about following your dreams."
This night the little town of Madison, Ind., showed the world what it
feels like to make your dreams come true.
The movie ended and the crowd, made up mostly of people who had been
bouncing in and out of theaters all day, rose to their feet for a standing
ovation. The credits rolled with many local names as Mellencamp sang
about a small town called "Madison."
Actors Caviezel, Jake Lloyd and Bruce Dern joined Bindley and producer
Martin Wiley on stage for questions about their experience. I had never
seen it before š the entire audience stayed. The group sighed as young
Lloyd of "Star Wars" movie fame expressed little desire in
wanting to be a hydroplane boat driver. He said that since doing the
movie, he's "too unbelievably scared of racing."
An Indianapolis native, Bindley and his technical film crew did a magnificent
job of showing the thrills of driving through the open water and the
true sense of Hoosier pride that the City of Madison shared in 1971.
Crowds mingled with the films stars afterward for more than an hour.
They took pictures and gathered autographs as they shared the pleasures
of seeing this wonderful film. I sat back with a smile bigger than my
hometown, proud to be from such a neat little place with a big heart.
When the night was over, the Sundance 2001 buzz was "Madison."
"Hey Davey, nice job!"
Shannon Gettelfinger is a 25-year-old native of
Madison and a 1993 graduate of Madison Consolidated High School. She
earned a broadcast journalism degree at Indiana University in 1997 and
now works as director of sales development for WAVE-TV 3 in Louisville.
An avid skier and instructor at Paoli Peaks, she attended the Sundance
premiere showing of "Madison" while on a ski trip and wound
up at the premiere party after running into an old friend. She wrote
this article for the RoundAbout Entertainment Guide.
Back to February 2001