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Chatting it up with Hamptons Film Fest stars

ActorJames Franco during

ActorJames Franco during "A Conversation With..." at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, which was part of the Hamptons International Film Festival. (Oct. 9, 2010) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

James Franco agreed to play the controversial gay photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in an upcoming movie while attending the Hamptons International Film Festival Saturday.

It was all very informal: Near the end of a Q-and-A session at Sag Harbor's Bay Street Theatre, the award-winning documentarian Ondi Timoner casually asked the actor about playing the part in her film.

As he mulled it over, she noted that she graduated from Yale, where Franco is now pursuing his doctorate in English.

"I'm your man," Franco said, slapping his knees. "Yeah, I'll play Mapplethorpe."

The Hamptons festival, now in its 18th year, doesn't exactly have the wheeler-dealer status of Sundance or Toronto, but Franco's appearance was one of several celebrity coups organizers scored this year.

Isabella Rossellini had been on the same stage less than an hour before. Alec Baldwin interviewed the filmmaker Julian Schnabel Friday evening. Sunday, it's Stanley Tucci's turn in the guest chair.

And although the Hamptons rarely wants for stars and industry types, they seemed quite visible over the weekend. James Lipton, host of "Inside the Actor's Studio," watched the Franco interview while Rajendra Roy, chief film curator for the Museum of Modern Art, asked the questions. Freida Pinto, the star of Schnabel's new film "Miral," introduced a screening Friday night; "Sex and the City" creator Darren Star sat in the audience. Saturday morning, Bill Pullman prepared for a live radio broadcast from the c/o The Maidstone hotel.

As always, Hamptons filmgoers took full advantage of having filmmakers close by, peppering them with questions. Schnabel, whose "Miral" was filmed in Israel but makes some unusually blunt statements about Israeli politics, told one audience member that the mayor of Jerusalem had "embraced" the movie.

Though the festival is winding down, it's far from over.

Sunday's schedule includes a 1 p.m. screening of the 1990 gangster film "Miller's Crossing," attended by Marcia Gay Harden and John Turturro, and a 3:15 showing of the indie film "3 Backyards" attended by Edie Falco. The awards ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. at Guild Hall. The festival continues through Monday.

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