If you noticed a few extra stars in the sky Thursday night, it could have been the sparkling reflection from the red carpet at the 13th annual Newport Beach Film Festival.
The romantic comedy Jewtopia made its world premiere at the Big Newport Theater and its all-star cast walked the carpet for a crowd of enthusiastic reporters and flash-happy photographers.
In the movie, Tom Arnold -- a self-proclaimed film festival junkie -- plays gynecologist Bruce Daniels. Having made his rounds at Tribeca and Sundance, he thinks the Newport Beach Film Festival stands up well against the festival heavyweights.
"They've done an amazing job in their 13 years of building a festival," Arnold said. "For them to build this festival here so close to L.A., this is a real festival vibe. It's an honor to be here."
Jewtopia is based on the international smash-hit play about two childhood friends played by Ivan Sergei and Joel David Moore, who reunite as adults to help each other land the women of their dreams. One wants to marry a Jewish girl, so he asks his friend to help him pretend he's Jewish, which results in cultures colliding and lots of chaos.
In addition to Arnold, the film stars Jennifer Love Hewitt, Rita Wilson, Jamie Lynn Sigler and Nicolette Sheridan.
Lin Shaye, who plays the main character's therapist and is most known for her role as the repulsive landlord for Woody Harrelson in Kingpin, was thrilled to be walking Newport's red carpet.
"This means a lot to me to be here tonight, because this movie started out as a two-page acting workshop," Shaye said. "I was there from day one, from the journey at rehearsals and realizing we had something special. It's beautiful here in Newport. It's unreal. Look at the clouds right now, these don't exist anywhere but here."
In addition to the stars of Jewtopia, other actors and directors were on hand to promote their films.
On Saturday at 8 p.m. at the Lido Theater, Should've Been Romeo makes its world premiere. "It's a wonderful story, it is an incredible film," Director Marc Bennett said. "The tagline for the film is 'Even Shakespeare didn't see this coming.' "
Bennett spent 12 years trying to get the film made. The cast includes Ed Asner, Michael Rapaport, Carol Kane, Kelly Osbourne and Paul Ben-Victor.
Victor walked the red carpet, but was tired from the night before. "I was out late last night doing karaoke, singing the Beatles," Victor said.
Should've Been Romeo is a project that is very close to Victor -- he calls it "the feel-good movie of the year."
"It's a very sweet, touching film about family and acceptance," he said. "My mom is a playwright, we cowrote it together, and my cousin is the producer."
Victor said he loved being back in Newport Beach. He use to do work in La Jolla and stop here on the way back from Los Angeles.
"The little ferry I remember. I love Balboa Island."
Other films showing at the Newport Beach Film Festival include Vinyl.
"If you were a punk rocker, or wanted to be a punk rocker or thought punk was cool, you are going to want to see this film," said director Sara Sugarman.
Last year, the zombie film Deadheads ruled the festival; this year another zombie film makes its debut. Portrait of a Zombie tells the story of an Irish family that decides to take care of a zombie son instead of killing him. The director, Bing Bailey, is from New York and decided to start living his passion of filmmaking after 9/11, when he was working at the World Trade Center and was running late to work. His poor time management saved his life.
Behind the Orange Curtain, a locally produced documentary, deals with prescription drug abuse among teens.
"The whole film is based on the fact that parents are sharing their stories about the loss of their children," said director Brent Huff. Tickets are still available for the 3:45 p.m. showing May 3. The three other screenings have sold out.
"The No. 1 thing they should take away from this film is that parents need to investigate much earlier," said producer Zac Titus. "They find out that kids taking drugs are 12 years old. You need to be educating kids at 10 years old because they are going to school with 12-year-olds. Twenty percent of high school kids are taking prescription drugs to get high. That's ridiculous."
The festival runs through May 3 at the new Island Cinemas, reopened Port Theater, Lido Theater and Triangle Square.
Gregg Schwenk, president of the Newport Beach Film Festival, was buoyed by the success of the event.
"It's a true testament of how much we've grown over the last 13 years and a reflection of how hard my programming team has worked to bring the very best programming here to Newport Beach."