Rolling out the red carpet

NEWPORT BEACH — The opening night of the Newport Beach Film Festival, featuring the world premiere of "East Fifth Bliss," was marked by high-profile celebrities and a packed theater at the Edwards Big Newport Cinemas.

Actors Michael C. Hall and Peter Fonda were among the television and film celebrities who showed up for the red carpet gala for the film about an emotionally dysfunctional man who wants to travel, but has no money and no job, and finds himself involved in an odd relationship with a former classmate's daughter.

The movie premiered shortly after 7:30 p.m. at the theater near Fashion Island.

"I'm excited to see this movie in a room filled with over a thousand people on a big screen — that's a unique experience," Hall said. "To feel this collective excitement and energy is really gratifying."

Along with Hall, the film co-stars Fonda, Lucy Liu, Chris Messina, Brie Larson, Sarah Shahi and Brad William Henke.

Fonda, who plays Seymour Bliss in the film, said he was attracted to the project because it contained "a great script, a great cast and a great character."

"I get to act out my frustrations with my [character's] own son," Fonda said, adding that audiences should watch the film to learn more about both his onscreen and offscreen relationships.

The screening was attended by many of the other directors and actors whose films would be shown in the coming days of the annual festival that runs through May 5.

Also in walking the red carpet was Tom Sizemore, who plays Leroy Lowe in "White Night," which screens at 5:15 p.m. Friday at the Starlight Triangle Square Cinemas in Costa Mesa.

The film has the "craziest premise," said Sizemore, about the drama that depicts a leader of the Ku Klux Klan who has to confront all his prejudices.

Other celebrities with films screening in the days following the opening night who were at the red carpet gala were Andy Hirsch, of "Fort McCoy," Robert Patrick, of "Good Day For It," Christopher McDonald, of "Balls to the Walls," Hal Ozsan, of "Peach Plum Pear."

Before the film screened, festival officials spoke on the death of former festival communications manager Saba Shirazi, who was killed in a car crash in San Diego in July. She was 32.

Officials noted her contributions to the festival and cheerful demeanor through her career with the film festival.

Festival co-founder Todd Quartararo told the Daily Pilot after Shirazi died that he would always remember "her big smile."

"She took her job very seriously," Quartararo said last July. "It's funny, on her job interview she mentioned, 'I like to work. I like to keep busy.' She was the consummate perfectionist. She did a phenomenal job."

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