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YOUNG ACTOR SEEMS TO HAVE A MINIFEST WITHIN SUNDANCE

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One of the jokes going around town is that there is an Ethan Hawke minifestival within the Sundance Film Festival this year.

The young actor, best known for "Dead Poets Society" and "White Fang," has his name on the credits of four festival films, and appears in two of them.Hawke is most prominent in "Reality Bites," a premiere film in which he co-stars with Winona Ryder (and which opens in theaters around the country in just three weeks).

But he also makes his directing debut with the short film "Straight to One," has a cameo in the dramatic competition film "Floundering" and gets a "thanks" from Illeana Douglas in the end credits of her short film, "The Perfect Woman."

In "Reality Bites," Ryder has the lead role, as a young woman torn between two men, a video producer (Ben Stiller, who also directed the film) and a "grungy" musician, as Hawke's character is described in the Film Guide.

"The whole movie is a little expose about what it means to be turning into an adult at this time," Hawke says, reluctantly describing the film and his character. "So, my character fits somewhere into that."

Obviously somewhat uncomfortable talking about himself, Hawke says he wants to promote his films but confesses to being conflicted about giving interviews, which is becoming more and more a part of the business. He's especially frustrated when he's expected to give sound-bite answers to questions about a movie or character he plays. "It's just words and they get to be absurd, you know? It sounds like the cover of Us magazine.

"But the media runs everything - and if you don't do it (interviews), then they (the movie studios) tell you, `Don't you want (the film) to do well?'

"Well, yeah, I do, but what does this do to my life, talking about things that are personal?"

Then, sensing that he is perhaps complaining too much, Hawke pauses, and adds, "Of course, I'm incredibly grateful to have this problem, it's a wonderful problem to have."

Hawke is very serious about his craft and in between movies - studio pictures and independent films - he has a theater company in New York that he has started with friends. "I'm really interested in becoming the best actor that I can, and whatever feeds that, I'm interested in. I find that all areas of the performing arts interest me - and assist my acting."

Though he has had two lead roles in major studio movies, "White Fang" and "Mystery Date," Hawke has primarily been relegated to supporting roles - by choice. "I've been waiting to be the lead in a movie that would be something I'm willing to put everything I have into it. If you have the lead and the movie's not good, then you're not good.

"There are very few very good movies made, so I guess I've gotten a little gun shy." He adds that he is pleased, however, with "Reality Bites." "It's a very good movie and I look forward to seeing it at Sundance.

"Reality Bites" will have its world premiere here Friday evening, and will be shown again Saturday morning. Both screenings were among the first to sell out. "Floundering" has two more showings, Thursday, Jan. 27, 3 p.m., Prospector Square, and Saturday, Jan. 29, 10:40 a.m., Holiday III. "Straight to One" is part of the "Shorts Program II," and will play once more, on Sunday, Jan. 30, 5 p.m., Holiday I.

- ILLEANA DOUGLAS is probably best recognized for her supporting role in "Cape Fear" as the woman Robert De Niro picks up in a bar.

But she is also familiar for her appearances in "Alive," "Good-Fellas," "Guilty By Suspicion" and "New York Stories."

"So far in my career, I've been cast in very serious, kind of victim-like roles," Douglas said. "I've never been able to show that I could do this funny thing."

But she does show audiences this "funny thing" with both her directing debut, "The Perfect Woman," an 8-minute comedy featuring 30 female speaking roles, and the dramatic competition feature "Grief," a dark comedy in which she is part of an ensemble cast. (The films are playing together Wednesday, Jan. 26, 9:30 p.m., in the Library Center, and on Thursday, Jan. 27, 7:40 p.m., in the Holiday III.)

"Grief" has a serious subtext, a gay man's feelings as he approaches the anniversary of the death of his longtime companion, but it is primarily a comedy peopled with misguided misfits. An extremely low-budget production, it was shot in only 10 days. "One of the reasons I did this is because I had just done `Cape Fear' and `Alive' and `Household Saints,' and I was really caught up in serious characters.

"And I liked what it had to say, but mainly I loved the humor and the idea of portraying this relationship between a straight girl and a gay friend. (My character) is a stoned-out party girl, but except for that, she is closer to me than any of the other characters I play."

And what about that "thanks" to Hawke on the credits for "The Perfect Woman"? "We met on `Alive,' and he had done `Straight to One,' and he inspired me and encouraged me to do my own film.

"He also brought me many of the women. At a certain point I was running out of women, and Ethan, curiously, seems to know a lot of women. So, he supplied me with a lot of ex-girlfriends."

FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

For festival information, phone 328-FILM (3456); for ticket information, phone 322-1700. All theaters and auditoriums are in Park City, except the Tower Theater, which is in Salt Lake City, and the Sundance Screening Room, which is at the Sundance Resort in Provo Canyon.

WEDNESDAY (JAN. 26)

Egyptian Theatre: "The Slingshot" 1 p.m.; "Coming Out Under Fire" 4 p.m.; "Golden Gate" 7 p.m.; "Dialogues with Madwomen" 10 p.m.; "The Making of...And God Spoke" midnight.

Holiday Village Cinema I: "Heart of the Matter" 1 p.m.; "Martha & Ethel" 4 p.m.; "Clerks" 7 p.m.; "Lives in Hazard" 10 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema II: "Child Murders" 1:20 p.m.; "What Happened Was" 4:20 p.m.; "Colorado Cowboy" 7:20 p.m.; "Spanking the Monkey" 10:20 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema III: "Cuba Va" 1:40 p.m.; "Mama Awethu!" 4:40 p.m.; "River of Grass" 7:40 p.m.; "Go Fish" 10:40 p.m.

Prospector Square: "Abyssinia" 3 p.m.; "Killing Zoe" 6 p.m.; "Sirens" 9 p.m.

Library Center: "Clean, Shaven" 3:30 p.m.; "Freedom on My Mind" 6:30 p.m.; "Grief" 9:30 p.m.

Elks Building: "Program I (Native American)" 3 p.m.; "Program III (Native American)" 6 p.m.

Tower Theater: "Makin' Up" 6 p.m.; "Fresh" 8:30 p.m.

Sundance Screening Room: "The Scent of Green Papaya" 8 p.m.

THURSDAY (JAN. 27)

Egyptian Theatre: "Shorts Program I" 10 a.m.; "Sirens" 1 p.m.; "Theremin" 4 p.m.; "The Hudsucker Proxy" 7 p.m.; "Fresh" 10 p.m.; "Poor Little Rich Girl" midnight.

Holiday Village Cinema I: "Coming Out Under Fire" 10 a.m.; "Hoop Dreams" 1 p.m.; "Are They Still Shooting?" 4:30 p.m.; "Living on the River Agano" 7 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema II: "blessing" 10:20 a.m.; "You Only Live Once" 1:20 p.m.; "Cronos" 4:20 p.m.; "Two Small Bodies" 7:20 p.m.; "Suture" 10:20 p.m.

Holiday Village Cinema III: "Boatman" 10:40 a.m.; "The Secret Life of Houses" 1:40 p.m.; "Anchoress" 4:40 p.m.; "Grief" 7:40 p.m.; "The Fence" 10:40 p.m.

Prospector Square: "Boxer Rebellion" 9:30 a.m.; "Financing & Production for the Small Screen" noon; "Floundering" 3 p.m.; "Risk" 6 p.m.; "Mi Vida Loca" 9 p.m.

Library Center: "Golden Gate" 9:30 a.m.; "The Making of...And God Spoke" 12:30 p.m.; "Lives in Hazard" 3:30 p.m.; "Nina Takes a Lover" 6:30 p.m.; TBA 9:30 p.m.; "The Who's `Tommy': The Amazing Journey" 11:30 p.m.

Elks Building: "Sundance Informational" 10 a.m.

Tower Theater: "Thirty-two Short Films about Glenn Gould" 6 p.m.; "The Beginning and the End" 8:30 p.m.

Sundance Screening Room: "Consuming Sun" 8 p.m.