Louise Linton Hits Sundance in Search of Film Deals

Kate Dudley, Kia Freeman, Kristen Ruhlin and Louise Linton_Sundance - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Louise Linton

The wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made a quiet visit to Park City in a bid to launch her four-woman production company "across the ocean of Hollywood."

Amid the hubbub of Main Street in Park City during the height of the Sundance Film Festival, one blond woman in Ugg boots, an overcoat and a Dodger cap blended in with the crowd. Louise Linton, wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, traveled to the mountain cinema event last weekend to meet with agents, producers and screenwriters in search of projects and partnerships for her nascent production company, Stormchaser Films.

The Sundance trip was the latest step in Linton’s bid to evolve her modest acting career and controversial public image into that of a serious filmmaker.

Linton has two features in stages of production, she tells The Hollywood Reporter when reached by phone after returning to Los Angeles. She’s writing, directing and producing a dark comedy called Me, You, Madness, about a young thief, played by Ed Westwick, who discovers he’s robbing the home of a serial killer. Linton began shooting the film in November in downtown L.A. and Malibu and says she intends to complete production in March and seek distribution. 

Over the past year Linton has also written and directed reshoots of a never-released comedy she shot in 2014, a satire called Serial Daters Anonymous, in which Linton plays the lead role of Claire, a fashion columnist who leaves her husband at the altar. The film had foundered in postproduction, Linton says, until she resuscitated it. “It gave me my first opportunity to dabble in directing and I realized how much I loved it,” she says.

Mnuchin and Linton married in June of 2017, and the couple had seemed to be transitioning from Hollywood circles to D.C. ones — he has sold his stake in RatPac-Dune, the prolific film-financing firm he established with partners Brett Ratner and James Packer, which backed such movies as Wonder Woman, Dunkirk and American Sniper.

But Linton, who appeared in small roles in the movies Cabin Fever and Rules Don’t Apply and on episodes of Cold Case and CSI, is attempting to re-engage with the industry. 

The Edinburgh, Scotland-born actress is perhaps best known not for her onscreen work, but for a let-them-eat-cake image she has been trying to shed. The persona emerged from a series of gaffes, including an August 2017 Instagram post in which Linton tagged the fashion brands she wore while descending the steps of a government plane with her husband on a trip to discuss tax policy. Commenters torched Linton in the now-deleted post, with one writing, “Glad we could pay for your little getaway #deplorable.” Linton clapped back, writing, “Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? … You’re adorably out of touch.”

Critics also seized on a self-published 2016 memoir Linton wrote about her gap year in Zambia in the 1990s, In Congo’s Shadow: One Girl’s Perilous Journey to the Heart of Africa, calling it a white savior fantasy. “I tried not to think what the rebels would do to the ‘skinny white Muzungu with long angel hair’ if they found me,” Linton wrote in one passage that offended many on Twitter and helped inspire the hashtag #LintonLies. In November of 2017, Linton and Mnuchin were mocked again for photos of them holding up a sheet of freshly printed dollar bills at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, she clad in long black leather gloves some compared to the wardrobe of a Bond villainess.

Stung by the criticism, Linton has been taking efforts to reinvent her public persona, participating in 2018 profiles in Elle and the Washingtonian in which she apologized for missteps in the way she introduced herself to the world, and relaunching her Instagram feed in late 2018 with a focus on her philanthropic activities. 

Behind the scenes, Linton has been quietly building Stormchaser, hiring three other women to help her run it: Kristen Ruhlin as head of production; Kia Freeman to focus on nonprofit documentaries; and Kate Dudley as a development executive. Stormchaser takes its name from a dinghy Linton’s brother rowed in Scotland that has “Stormchaser” written on the side in blue electrical tape. “It was obviously intended to be a big name for a little boat,” Linton says. “That little dinghy represents me and my company. We’re a small company barreling across the ocean of Hollywood.”

Linton has made donations to Women in Film and the Creative Coalition, the nonprofit arts and entertainment advocacy group, and at Sundance she attended multiple Creative Coalition events. She also met with agents at Endeavor, with producer Cassian Elwes, and with the female screenwriter of a Black List screenplay that she hopes to option. 

When speaking by phone, Linton comes across as savvier and more self-aware than her media persona would suggest. Asked about the Democrats in Congress who are raising ethical concerns about connections between her husband and billionaire Republican donor Len Blavatnik, Linton declined to comment, saying, “I’m a filmmaker, I’m not a politician.” She also declined to disclose the budgets for the films she’s working on and says financing has come from “a variety of investors.”

In a sign, perhaps, of the new image Linton is hoping to project, the actress turned political wife didn’t post any pictures from Park City’s ubiquitous parties or gifting suites, normally a hashtagger’s haven. Linton says she did not attend any parties at all while in Park City, and walked Main Street in anonymity. While in Sundance, Linton received an offer to meet on another directing job later this week in Los Angeles, and she says she retreated to her Park City condo to prepare. “I’m not much of a party girl,” Linton says. “I don’t think I’m that recognizable. I was really focused on the work.”