‘Cooler’ heats up fest

Lions Gate pic saddled with NC-17 rating

Wednesday’s Los Angeles Film Festival opening night kicked off the 11-day event with a dose of violence and romance as “The Cooler” premiered at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome.

IFP exec director Dawn Hudson and fest director Richard Raddon introduced the Lions Gate pic, while Heather Graham performed intro honors for her “Killing Me Softly” helmer, Chen Kaige, the fest’s guest director. Graham spent the screening canoodling with b.f. Chris Weitz while aud members gasped at the graphic scenes — including more than the world has ever seen of William H. Macy.

Lions Gate now has to grapple with how and if it can turn the Vegas gambling pic, recently tagged with an NC-17 rating, into a more acceptable R before its November release.

At the packed Sunset Room afterparty, pic’s Alec Baldwin said he enjoys alternating studio pics like “Cat in the Hat” with indie fare “because everyone is working on the project because they love it.” Lions Gate prexy Tom Ortenberg meanwhile called the pic the most original love story of the year.

Also mingling at the opening were Billy Baldwin, Faye Dunaway, Oliver Hudson, John Cameron Mitchell, Guy Pearce, James Remar and Christan Slater.

The fest’s busy sked of Coffee Talks included a sesh on directing with Jodie Foster and David Fincher, moderated by Kasi Lemmons over the weekend

Foster and Fincher regaled a SRO crowd, which included guests such as helmer Tony Bui and Dunaway, with “Panic Room” tales .

Foster recalled her days on set trapped in a 8×6-foot room as “horrible, but I’d still come home with a smile on my face.”

Fincher, in his signature grump mode, often let out a pained sigh before answering questions and admitted he finds working on a film mostly “miserable.”

“Once you find (a script) you love you have six-and-a-half minutes to enjoy it,” he lamented.

Foster, who continues her quest to get “Flora Plum” made, says the project still has Russell Crowe attached. “It went from humbling to humiliating. Hopefully we’re doing it now.”

— additional reporting by Sharon Swart

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