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Sundance: With ‘Austenland,’ Keri Russell seeks ‘Waitress’ magic

Six years ago Keri Russell came to Sundance with a small undistributed movie about a pie-baking hobbyist working in a small-town diner. The dramedy, “Waitress,” went on to become one of the crowd-pleasers of the festival and garnered more than $19 million upon its theatrical release.

Russell is back in Park City this year with another film of light whimsy. Working with first-time director Jerusha Hess, half of the writing team behind “Napoleon Dynamite” (and one of the many female filmmakers making their name in the Utah mountains this year), Russell is starring in “Austenland,” a romantic comedy in modern-day England based on Shannon Hale’s novel.

Premiering on Friday afternoon in Park City, where it is seeking a distribution deal, the movie looks at Jane Austen enthusiasts who take a country holiday to enact their Victorian-novel fantasies.

“The idea is kind of hilarious: There are these lonely ladies who pay all this money to go and live like that, and the end is a big dance where all the women are paired up with Mr. Darcy,” Russell, who’s set to take a short break from shooting her Cold War-era cable series “The Americans” to appear at the premiere screening, said in an interview with The Times. “It’s delicious and a little lewd-y,” she laughed.

The film has an unexpected, un-Sundance-like selling point: It’s produced by “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer, the first movie she’s produced that isn’t based on one of her novels.

But it wasn’t vampires that vexed those working on the film. Russell had a more real-life difficulty: She was pregnant with her second child when she was shooting “Austenland.”

“It was interesting to frolic in the English countryside while pregnant but trying not to be,” she said. “The waists kept getting higher on my outfits. But it’s a movie with a lot of corsets and Victorian fashions so it all kind of worked out.”