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NYFF 2012: Directors Reflect on 'Here and There', Restored 'Little Shop of Horrors'

Frank Oz - P 2012

Antonio Mendez Esparza called returning to New York "magic," while Frank Oz spoke of releasing a happier ending to his 1986 musical.

Scroll through the New York Film Festival schedule this year and you’ll find everything from Lee Daniels’ Cannes favorite The Paperboy with Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey to a celebration of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Last night, the 50th NYFF welcomed new directors and seasoned filmmakers at the Lincoln Center in New York City, as the red carpet rolled out to kick off the festival for the world premiere of Ang Lee’s 3D adventure film, Life of Pi.

NYFF is somewhat of a homecoming for director Antonio Mendez Esparza, whose film Here and There took top honors at the Critics' Week sidebar at Cannes.

“It’s beautiful because I studied here in New York, so I used to come to these festivals,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s really magic -- and also, the main character of the film, I met him like twenty streets up, in a supermarket!”

REVIEW: Here and There (Aquí y Allá)

Director Jeff Kaufman -- who is currently working on a film about development and education in Haiti -- admitted that he found himself starstruck while creating the Swing documentary, The Savoy King, which premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival earlier this year.

“To work with Billy Crystal, Janet Jackson, John Legend and Bill Cosby was just a total thrill,” he said on the red carpet. “Someone like Cosby -- I remember listening to his records when I was a kid, and then the weird thing was he would pass on lessons to me about how I should do things. I tried to act a couple of roles with him so that his role would play off of them, and I would apologize for being such a terrible actor. He would say, ‘Listen, let me tell you something. Never apologize, just do the best you can and people will respect it.’ I thought, wow, Bill Cosby’s teaching me lessons! It was pretty cool.”

REVIEW: "The Savoy King"

Among the recent releases is a digitally restored director’s cut of Little Shop of Horrors, the 1986 adaptation of the off-Broadway musical with Rick Moranis and Steve Martin. The Saturday night screening at NYFF features a different ending, previously seen only on limited edition DVDs of the film – now out of print.

“The director’s cut really is basically the last twenty minutes of it – things had to change for about ten minutes prior to the ending,” director Frank Oz told THR. “It’s really exciting to see what the reaction will be for people who have never seen this ending before. I’m very curious.”

STORY: Joseph Gordon-Levitt Developing "Little Shop of Horrors" as Acting Vehicle

Horrors actress Ellen Greene said she appreciated the work Oz, Warner Bros. and restorer Kurt Galvao put in to making the new version happen, calling it "a dream come true."

“It’s just such an honor for me, for [screenwriter] Howard Ashman -- Alan Menkin and I love and miss him so much,” she said.