Sundance Scene: McConaughey, Robert Reich, Harry Potter

Matthew McConaughey, thin as the Park City air, does, in fact, eat.

Popping jalapenos and chomping on asparagus stalks like Bugs Bunny eating carrots, McConaughey co-hosted (with director Jeff Nichols) a dinner for the cast and producers of his Sundance Film Festival entry “Mud.”

Unlike most Sundance movies, “Mud” arrived with a distribution deal intact. Roadside Attractions is planning an April release. Co-president Howard Cohen and senior vice-president Gail Blumenthal were at the party, in the Grey Goose vodka pop-up lounge at Park City’s Blue Door restaurant.

“Mud” was shot before the actor dropped 30 pounds for his role as an AIDS patient in “Dallas Buyer’s Club,” coming later this year.

“When I saw myself in the trailer [for `Mud’], I looked huge,” McConaughey said, after finishing a plate of off-menu salmon.

“Mud,” written and directed by Nichols (“Take Shelter”), is a Mississippi tall tale about two 14-year-old boys (think Huck and Tom) helping a charming, unwashed fugitive (named Mud and played by, well, you know) dodge bounty hunters in a backwoods Delta hideaway.

McConaughey shares most of his screen time with the two boys -- Tye Sheridan (“Tree of Life”), who was at the dinner party, and newcomer Jacob Lofland, who was not.

The star also has a couple of big moments with Sam Shepard, the actor and writer who plays the wizened old river coot who raised Mud.

The film lets them dive headlong into grizzled, deep-fried Delta accents.

“He’s the first person I called when I saw the movie the first time,” McConaughey says. “I said, man you’ve done a lot, but I’m telling you, you are great in this one.”

Poetic Injustice

“Howl” author Allen Ginsberg and erstwhile wizard Harry Potter have something in common: Daniel Radcliffe, star of “Kill Your Darlings,” the buzzy Sundance feature about Beat poets and gay panic murder.

Radcliffe huddled with co-stars Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”) and Erin Darke (who may -- or may not -- be Radcliffe’s new girlfriend) at the Blue Door after Friday’s “Darlings” premiere. The film, directed by John Krokidas, recounts a 1944 murder near Columbia University that became a pivotal event in the lives of Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs.

The strong cast (and maybe the lure of Radcliffe’s first big-film nude scene) is drawing lots of attention from distributors here.

Robert Reich

Audience Q&As at Sundance are generally friendly, but the give-and-take after “Inequality for All,” Jacob Kornbluth’s documentary about wealth disparity in the U.S., had a flash of Occupy pique.

The film focuses on economist Robert B. Reich, Bill Clinton’s labor secretary, current University of California at Berkeley professor and good-natured, left-leaning pundit of choice for Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart.

An audience member kicked off the session by using an expletive to describe the “false equivalency” he said the film draws between the Occupy movement and the Tea Party.

“With all due respect,” Reich snapped, repeating the epithet, “you’re full of bullshit.”

As Stewart might have said, go on...

“We need to understand the frustration and anger and disillusionment and cynicism,” Reich said, “caused by a problem we’ve seen growing for the last 30 years: Economic stagnation and the undermining of our democracy.”

With that, Reich returned to lovable-prof mode.

“I don’t think you’re full of bullshit,” he said. “I just think we need to see the connections.”

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.