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The Sundance Film Festival-hosted world premiere Elijah Bynum’s Magazine Dreams may have gotten off to a bumpy start as traffic delays and festival congestion in Park City caused the film to start 45 minutes late. But after the credits rolled and the lights came up, its star Jonathan Majors faced the Eccles Theatre audience and received an electric standing ovation.
In what many are calling a brutal and fully committed performance, Majors stars as Killian Maddox, an amateur bodybuilder who sacrifices health, both mental and physical, to pursue a dream of superstardom while he struggles to maintain control of a volatile temper.
The official fest synopsis calls the film “a provocative film that respects the dignity of its protagonist as it pulls no punches in portraying the most physically and emotionally painful moments of his darkening odyssey.” Those who caught the screening were quick to describe it as Taxi Driver.
Written and directed by Bynum, who made his directorial debut on Hot Summer Nights starring Timothée Chalamet, Magazine Dreams hit the Black List and is one of the hotter acquisition titles here at the festival with CAA repping rights. (Fun fact: Bynum started his career at CAA before segueing to filmmaking.) Majors stars opposite Haley Bennett, Taylour Paige, Mike O’Hearn, Harrison Page and Harriet Sansom Harris in the film that was produced by Jennifer Fox, Dan Gilroy, Jeffrey Soros and Simon Horsman.
It also was among the swath of world premieres to kick off the first weekend of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the first in-person gathering in three years. If there were any lingering questions about just how many people would descend upon Park City this year, those were erased by around midday Friday when Main Street, Park Avenue and just about every transit shuttle was packed to the gills, leading to traffic headaches and ride share nightmares as reported by multiple attendees.
The party scene also hit overdrive as well. Long before Magazine Dreams cast members arrived to their official afterparty at Chase Sapphire on Main, revelers queued up outside on a frigid Friday night waiting to get inside one of the festival’s hottest venues this year. Matt Rogers and Jaboukie Young-White were among the stars who made their way inside the packed event. Across the street, CNN Films toasted its doc Little Richard: I Am Everything (acquired by Magnolia Pictures here) while up the block Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich arrived at the after party for their Chloe Dumont film, Fair Play, at Sommsation Lounge shortly after rave reviews broke. The Guardian, for one, called it “a knockout thriller.”
Majors arrived close to 10 p.m. trailed by Paige who danced her way through the venue to the VIP hideaway. Meanwhile a gaggle of CAA agents huddled by the door as buzz filtered through the bash about a potential distribution deal though nothing was expected overnight.
Earlier in the day, the actor told The Hollywood Reporter that he signed on for the role because he was interested in working with Bynum and examining what the auteur had to say about society.
“What I attached to the most was this idea of society and what happens to an individual when they are rebuked by society,” Majors said. “Unseen is being rebuked by something. If you are unseen and you can’t see yourself in society, the gaslighting begins and your mental and your spiritual and your social begins to shift and change. I’ve not read a script that offered that type of opportunity and that type of challenge to myself as an actor or myself as a citizen for society. And I also thought it was impossible to be a bodybuilder as I was reading it and I was 172 pounds at the time. I was up for that challenge as well.”
See the full interview with Majors, Bynum and Bennett in THR‘s Studio at Sundance here.
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