This year’s SXSW Film looked as star-studded as the Oscars (or at least the MTV Movie Awards), with one of the festival’s most commercial movie lineups ever. Capping the busy weekend was a rare triple feature: the premieres of “Trainwreck,” “Spy” and “Furious 7.” And a batch of deals closed in Austin for smaller movies — including the Alex Gibney doc “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” (which went to Magnolia Pictures), the relationship drama “6 Years” (which landed at Netflix) and the Rupert Grint film “Moonwalkers“ (Alchemy). Here are five of the top moments from the first few days.
1) Amy Schumer Is the Next Big Thing
Amy Schumer proved that she really is a movie star in her first movie, Judd Apatow comedy “Trainwreck.” She plays a journalist (also named Amy) who drifts through a series of unfortunate one-night stands until she meets a charming doctor (Bill Hader). Apatow said he wanted to work with Schumer after he heard Howard Stern interview the comedian, and he suggested she write a script based on her life. “I write everything (set) in New York,” Schumer said. “I can’t imagine having a big kitchen.”
2) Ava DuVernay Reflects on “Selma”
DuVernay delivered the fest’s most passionate keynote address, talking about the journey she embarked on when making the 1965 civil rights drama — and revealing she was Paramount’s seventh choice for the job. “The studios aren’t lining up to make films about black protagonists,” DuVernay said. She also revealed an epiphany she had at the Oscars, where she was snubbed in the best director category. “I was in a room in L.A.,” she said. “It’s very cool. But my work’s worth is not about what happens in, around or for that room.”
3) Memorial for Paul Walker resonates
Universal surprised everybody by debuting “Furious 7” at a 12:07 a.m. secret screening, with fans waiting four hours to get in. “I know Paul Walker would be smiling down on us,” said producer Neal Moritz as he introduced the film. Walker, who played Brian O’Conner in the franchise, died in a car accident in November 2013, forcing the studio to halt production. The Paramount Theater filled with loud cheers the first time the actor appeared onscreen, and the tribute to him at the end of the movie left many emotional.
4) Melissa McCarthy Makes a Good ‘Spy’
Those who had written off McCarthy after last summer’s critical misfire “Tammy” (which still grossed $100 million worldwide) were wrong. Reteaming with her favorite collaborator, director Paul Feig, McCarthy delivers her most winning performance since “Bridesmaids” as a CIA analyst accidentally thrown into the line of duty. “I’ve always wanted to direct a spy movie, but I realized no one is ever going to let me direct a Bond movie,” Feig said. “I thought I’d write something with a woman lead.”
5) Sally Field Gets Sexy
The actress received SXSW’s most enthusiastic ovation for “Hello, My Name Is Doris,” about a woman who develops a crush on her much younger co-worker (Max Greenfield). The comedy, directed by Michael Showalter, is a rare starring vehicle for the 68-year-old Field, and it features the most hysterical sequence ever choreographed on a workout ball. “You get to a certain point, you read the same thing over and over again,” Field said. “There’s nothing that blows your skirt off. This blew my skirt way up.”