Savannah Film Festival announces some special screenings and guests, including Oliver Stone, Lily Tomlin, and James Marsden (Cyclops!)

The full schedule hasn’t yet been announced for the Savannah Film Festival, but most of the high-profile special screenings are now known — and so too are some of the major guests who have committed. Once again the SCAD-produced event is shaping up to be pretty great.

As I ramble through some of the details, I’ll link to the relevant IMDB pages.

I’ll confess that I’m especially excited about seeing Lily Tomlin in Savannah. I don’t know what the festival will do to honor the Kentucky native, but I’d sure love to see Nashville on the big screen, not to mention some snippets from Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.

The biggest catch, however, is Oliver Stone, although I’m sure that some of the other stars will get plenty of attention: James Marsden (who parlayed an early career as a TV teen idol into an impressive movie resume including playing Cyclops in the X-Men series), Ellen Barkin (whose Another Happy Day is one of the special screenings), James Toback (a writer/director/etc. with an interesting resume), Famke Janssen (Jean Gray/Phoenix in X-Men who will screen her film Bringing Up Bobby), Alec Baldwin (who has been to the festival before), and Ron Meyer, the president of Universal Pictures who recently got his contract extended through 2015.

Of the special screenings, I’m extremely excited about the chance to see The Artist, which I mentioned already here; David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, about Freud, Jung, and the early days of psychoanalysis; and Coriolanus, Ralph Fiennes’ take on Shakespeare.

There’s also Like Crazy, which features attractive and engaging young performers Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones. Roman Polanski’s comedy (really?) Carnage stars Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet. Director Agnieszka Holland’s newest film In Darkness set during the Holocaust will also be screened, as will  We Need to Talk about Kevin (Ezra Klein Miller [lol], who appears here as a teen spree killer, also will be seen in Another Happy Day) and Jeff Who Lives at Home, a comedy written and directed by Mark and Jay Duplass.

I’ve been lucky to get to cover so much of the Savannah Film Festival over the years.

Almost exactly ten years ago, I wrote about how Stanley Donen (director of Singin’ in the Rain, Indiscreet, On the Town and other classics) honored Johnny Mercer on stage at Trustees Theater. In 2003 — the year of Arthur Penn (director of Bonnie and Clyde), Thora Birch, Alec Baldwin, and The Triplets of Belleville — I was paid by the Savannah Morning News to blog each day — all the posts are here. I blogged again in 2007, when I was especially impressed by the surprise screening of Persepolis, an animated French film about Iran, but was disappointed by the unadventurous tastes of many of the film’s attendees. In 2005, I wrote a review of the underrated Merchant-Ivory film The White Countess; I got to chat with Natasha Richardson too, just as I got to talk a couple of years later to her mother Vanessa Redgrave, one of the great actresses of all time as far as I’m concerned.

And on and on and on.

In 2010, I devoted a Sunday column to festival wrap-up that concluded with a couple of details about Ian McKellen’s appearance at a screening of his brilliant Gods and Monsters:

Nearly all the 900 or so folks in the audience stayed for the question and answer session, which McKellen graciously extended. In closing, he volunteered to do a line from “The Lord of the Rings” during the grand confrontation between Gandalf and the Balrog.

McKellen put down his microphone as he humorously described shooting the scene on an empty set. He was not standing on a narrow bridge. He was not looking into the face of evil but at a suspended tennis ball.

Director Peter Jackson could not even tell him what the Balrog would look like.

Then McKellen boomed out the line, probably as loud as anyone has ever spoken in Trustees Theater: “You shall not bounce!”

McKellen dramatically exited through the wildly applauding audience rather than slinking off backstage.

Later that night, after talking to throngs of fans at a reception at the Mansion on Forsyth Park, the openly gay McKellen went outside to greet students from SCAD’s LGBT community who showed up out front.

In a quiet scene that many will remember for a long time, McKellen chatted, mingled and posed for countless photos.

And there are lots of things that I never wrote about — having dinner and chatting about serial killers with John Waters, getting a glass of wine to a very thirsty Peter O’Toole, and all sorts of other funny encounters.

This year’s Savannah Film Festival is from October 29th to November 5th.