When You’re Strange at Sundance with Sting

December 7, 2023
On my last night at Sundance with When You're Strange, I introduced the film by stating, "There are no actors, no doubles, no recreations in this film. Every frame is Jim Morrison and The Doors."
When the lights came up, the first question was from a young woman who asked, "I understand there were no recreations and every frame is real, but who did you get to play Jim Morrison?"
I left the screening in a dark mood. But, unknown to me, Sting and his wife Trudie were in the audience, and word came that they really liked the film. I received an invitation to join them for dinner.
I got to the restaurant fifteen minutes early, and there was already a long line pressing to get in. I gave my name to the young woman clutching her clipboard at the top of the stairs and told her I'd been invited by Sting. She flicked her eyes over her list and, with an equally admirable flick of her wrist, motioned me to step aside.
Ten minutes passed in the frigid Utah January night. The top of the staircase grew more crowded. I found myself pressed back hard against a wooden guard rail. Finally, I leaned forward and said, "Excuse me, I just wanted to let you know that I was invited here by Sting and his wife."
This time, the flick of the young woman's wrist made direct contact with my arm.
"I said, step back!" she snapped. And something about the touch of her hand did something to me.
I said, "Hey, listen. You don't need to push me."
"Get back!" she yelled.
"I am back," I said. "Just don't touch me."
"Security!!!" she shrieked. In an instant, a goon with a crew cut lunged toward me. At that moment, several things went through my mind:
The film I'd worked on for two years had just been universally trashed. Distributors had walked out of screenings, rigid in their conviction the HWY footage of Morrison's was fake. And now I was about two feet away from a bouncer who was coming at me like he was going to throw me down the stairs.
So, I opted to do what I felt was the best thing: punch the guy in the face. And even though I'd never been in a fight before and was so bundled up against the cold I could barely lift my arm, this was the strategy I came up with.
Just then, someone grabbed me from behind in a fierce bear hug, and I heard an unmistakable laughing voice shout, "Tom DiCillo!! Great to see you!"
It was Sting. And he literally lifted me off my feet and carried me past the bouncer and the open-mouthed gatekeeper into the restaurant. I stayed for about half an hour. To this day, I don't know if Sting had seen what was about to take place and rescued me or if he really was just glad to see me.
Learn more about When You're Strange here.

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician