A rising Manhattan filmmaker who directed, wrote and starred in a 2005 movie with Natalie Portman died Thursday in an early morning single-car crash in East Hampton, two weeks shy of the world premiere of his latest documentary.
Nick Louvel, 34, of Manhattan, whose latest project, "The Uncondemned" is one of the featured films at the 2015 Hamptons International Film Festival, was killed in the accident on Route 114, East Hampton Town police said.
Louvel's 2005 Honda Accord crossed from the northbound lanes and through the southbound lanes, striking "several trees" at 1:06 a.m., police said.
Louvel, who also had a residence in Wainscott, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.
A police spokesman, Capt. Christopher L. Anderson, said preliminary indications are that speed may have played a role, though the investigation into the cause is continuing.
Louvel was passionate about nature and filmmaking, always eager to share both with his nieces and nephews, those who knew him said. He earned degrees in film and communication from Harvard, New York University and Boston University and was a director at Brooklyn and Washington-based production company Film at 11.
Louvel had a passion for documentaries, but he also wrote, directed and starred in "Domino One," a 2005 low-budget film whose cast included Portman, who grew up in Jericho, and Steve Guttenberg. He also directed or was involved in a handful of other fringe films.
The official site for "The Uncondemned" described it as a documentary that "examines the first trial that prosecuted rape as a war crime and an act of genocide." Louvel traveled to Rwanda for the filming and considered its success, as his sister Sophie Louvel Schmitt said, the high point of his career so far.
In a statement, festival officials said they were mourning Louvel's death.
"His passion and filmmaking will be truly missed and our thoughts are with his family and friends during this tragic time," the statement read.
Film at 11 did not respond to a request for comment.
A day before his death, a statement on the company's website by Louvel and co-director Michele Mitchell shared their excitement about the upcoming festival spot on Oct. 9 and an award for "The Uncondemned" -- the 2015 Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for a Film of Conflict and Resolution.
Louvel spent much of his life traveling the world, but the Hamptons had a special significance, Schmitt said.
The Louvel family owned a vacation home in Wainscott and it was there that Louvel made his first movies at age 11, shot on his father's video camera and starring his siblings and parents.
"It was great that his documentary had been selected because he was connected to the Hamptons," said Schmitt, 39, of Boston.
Actor and media personality A.J. Benza, a West Islip native, said he met Louvel early in the filmmaker's career. Benza, 53, played a supporting role in the 2002 film "P.S. Your Cat Is Dead!" while Louvel helped out with the film's editing and produced a behind-the-scenes short documentary.
"We had no budget and we worked out of a hot, sweaty loft in Hollywood for 14 hours a day. But he was responsible for taking Steve Guttenberg's vision of a very infamous play and turning it into a slick little film," Benza said. "Nick made magic."