Sundance premieres ‘Hounddog’ | ParkRecord.com

Sundance premieres ‘Hounddog’

by Jay Meehan Record contributing writer

"It was gossip, a rumor, like a lot of things about people are. It’s really a beautiful story and I really hope that a lot of people get to see it and I hope that a lot of people learn from it."

12-year old Dakota Fanning responding to pre-screening uproar over "Hounddog" on the CHUD website.

Back when rumors first began to circulate, the film now known as "Hounddog" existed only in script form and was officially referred to as the "Untitled Dakota Fanning Project." As principal photography got underway, however, talk of possible child abuse both in the film and in the filming began to surface online. At the center of the controversy a rape scene involving Fanning’s character.

Written and directed by Deborah Kampmeier and filmed in North Carolina, "Hounddog" is a dark story revolving around an abused young girl and her efforts to heal and survive through her obsession with Elvis Presley and his music. Fanning, who turns thirteen next month, spoke of the setting during a recent interview with Time Magazine.

"It’s about a young girl in the South. She has overcome some really hard things in her life through music, especially the blues and Elvis Presley. I have to sing a little bit in the movie. It’s the period when Elvis is touring in his pink Cadillac and starting to get really popular, so I had to learn about that. It’s about overcoming adversity and still being yourself and not having to change who you are."

"Hounddog," which also features Robin Wright Penn, David Morse, and Piper Laurie premiers Monday, January 22, in the "dramatic film competition" category at the Racquet Club screening venue with cast and filmmaker scheduled for a "Q & A" afterwards. According to reports, Fanning, although not familiar with a ski-town environment, is very excited to hit the slopes during her stay.

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In continuing her interview with CHUD, the highly bankable young actress proves she is becoming quite the quick study in the field of ethnomusicology — again, speaking of her precocious character, Lewellen. "She overcomes all the hard things in her life through Elvis and through the blues and Big Mama Thornton, who was the first one to record Hound Dog." Being hip to Big Mama when you’re only twelve is rather cool, indeed.

According to all involved, including her mother, the controversial rape scene was "carefully choreographed." The fuss in general seems to be about whether such a young actress should have been used in the actual filming.

The turmoil over the scene even led to a temporary halt in filming due to funding being pulled. Crisis was averted, however, and filming able to continue once a group of emergency investors were located and brought onboard. Those involved in the project have "circled their wagons" and defend it as an important film telling an important story.

All agree that Fanning is called upon to perform a much more explicit scene than were required in the roles taken by Jodie Foster as a 12-year old prostitute in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 "Taxi Driver" and Brooke Shields as an even younger member of a New Orleans brothel in Louis Malle’s 1978 "Pretty Baby," both which were driven much more by innuendo.

But, according to Fanning, "it’s no darker than "Hide and Seek" or "Man on Fire," a couple of her previous roles. "I still am going through difficult things in those films as well, and nobody seemed to talk about that!"

"It’s really no different than playing any other character I’m still not playing myself. I get to experience different things people go through without going through them myself, which is no different from watching a news story and learning from that. It’s an emotionally moving movie, and I hope people enjoy it."

"Hounddog" will screen Monday, Jan. 22 at 8:30 p.m. at the Racquet Club.