Richard joins midday host Jerry Agar to have a look at the Elton John biopic ‘Rocketman,” listen to “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” the new song from the movie’s soundtrack and talk about the unique way Cannes’s audiences show their displeasure.
Richard talks Cannes and Xavier Dolan with the Canadian Press.
“I think he’s got probably a pretty good shot certainly at being taken seriously as a contender, even thought he’s up against the who’s who of international filmmakers like Ken Loach, Pedro Almodovar, Paul Verhoeven, Sean Penn,” says Toronto-based film reviewer Richard Crouse.
“There are a lot of people here that are working at a very high level, but I’d suggest that Xavier Dolan is working at just as high a level.”
Welcome to my on-line Cannes diary. Over the next eleven days I’m going to give you a blow-by-blow account of what happens both personally and professionally at the biggest, craziest and most respected film festival in the world.
Leave Toronto at 7:20 pm on Air France. The flight is on time, and after a lay-over in Paris, a connecting flight to Nice and a half-hour cab ride we should be in Cannes by 3 pm on Tuesday. The flight is uneventful, although the food was uncommonly good, and not just by airplane food standards. I get a little obsessive about food while I’m on the road… especially airplane food. It has always seemed to me to be cruel and unusual punishment to strap someone in a seat for eight hours, make them line up for the bathroom, charge them a fortune, make their ears pop and after all that serve them crappy food. I scope out the menu (yes there is a menu…) and choose an appetizer of lobster accompanied by mango salad with lemon and cocktail sauce, followed by a palate cleanser of different cheeses, a main course of duck a l’orange with basmati rice, Chinese broccoli and a carrot and
spinach flan. Others had the lobster followed by an herb crusted Mahi Mahi. I chose not to have the Mahi Mahi because I’m convinced that’s just a nicer name for Dolphin, and I’m not eating anything that is almost as smart as me. The duck was delicious, filled with ducky goodness, and served on china plates with only the plastic knives in our cutlery bundles serving as a reminder of heightened security concerns. Followed dinner with a cognac, and a very quick nap… I have trouble sleeping on planes for some reason.
After the all too brief nap I decided to watch a movie… Of course I’ve seen them all — several times — so I pass the time watching “For A Few Dollars More” in Portuguese, and I realize that Spaghetti Westerns work in any language — even if you don’t understand the dialogue. If you don’t understand what they are saying, you can certainly understand what they are doing. The same can’t be said for my second choice, “Serendipity,” with John Cusak. I chose to watch this one in Spanish, and the absence of any understandable dialogue actually improved the movie for me. Take away theinsipid script and all that’s left is the beautiful Kate Beckensale….
Next was “Le Famille Tenenbaum,” still funny, even though my grasp of
French is limited…
The stop-over in Paris was long and painful. Not long enough to actually
leave the airport and do something interesting, just long enough to make us tired. I love to travel. I like to walk on the beach, meet new people, see new things, as much as the next guy, it’s just the getting there that I find insufferable. It’s the waiting around, the bad airport food (see I’m on about food again), the guy in front of me who always has to put his seat all the way back so I have only 1/2 inch of leg room…
Charles deGaulle Airport Sightings: Serious looking soldiers with machine guns. A store that sells $500 sunglasses, and herds of poodles… well maybe not herds, but more than you usually see in airports…
After four and a-half soul destroying hours spent waiting around the
Paris airport we caught a flight to Nice. Uneventful flight, followed by a harrowing high speed taxi ride from Nice to Cannes. We arrived safely,
But our cab driver was quite obviously the retired NASCAR champ of France or something… Spent the rest of the day chasing stories for the upcoming shows, getting our press credentials in order and picking up cell phones.
Went to bed early, after having been up for about 34 hours… I was too tired to even dream, which is appropriate because I had been dreaming of sleeping all day….
Talk to you tomorrow….
WEDNESDAY MAY 15th
No jet lag! The secret is not sleeping when you arrive. I always stay up
until 11 or 12 o’clock in whatever time zone I’m in, no matter how tired I am, get a decent night’s sleep and the next day I always feel adjusted.
Apparently not everyone is so adaptable. At the press lounge jet lagged reporters from all over the world are walking around like half-dead
zombies, desperately chugging coffee trying to stay awake. I keep such erratic hours anyway that I seem to be able to adjust to any time change.
Spent Wednesday morning and afternoon trying to set up interviews for
R2R’s upcoming shows. The real chaos hasn’t started here yet, so I didn’t have to wait long, although at one office I had to stand in a dank, dark hallway for almost an hour before anyone could find time to speak to me. It’s busy here, but the expected throngs of press and tourists will arrive over the week-end. Then the bad craziness starts. You can’t move on the streets, people line up for screening hours and hours in advance, restaurants and cafes are full to capacity… just trying to walk down the street becomes a hellish, hectic experience. But right now the weather is beautiful, there are stylishly dressed people from all over the world everywhere… I love walking twenty feet down the street and hearing twenty different languages being spoken, it’s a mind broadening experience. On the downside, security is very tight this year. I have been frisked, poked and prodded everywhere.
This is a new development from last year, but given the shaky world political climate, I guess it has to be this way.
I spoke with Michael Moore on the street today. I’m a big fan of his work, and have just finished reading his latest book, “Stupid White Men.” Most people will remember him from his award winning documentary “Roger and
Me,” although I really liked his later film “Canadian Bacon” with John Candy, and his television show “The Awful Truth” which should be required viewing for people who trust corporate America. Moore is in Cannes to promote his latest film “Bowling for Columbine,” a bitingly satiric look at the gun trade in the United States after the Columbine school shootings. He’s a cool guy, who had very funny things to say about the last time he was in Toronto and his appearance on Canada AM. If all goes well I will be interviewing Mr. Moore later this week for one of R2R’s Cannes shows.
Woody Allen’s “Hollywood Ending” opens the festival tonight. Our camera man Mark shot a press conference with Woody this morning, which will be used on the first show. also shot some footage of a press conference with the jury of this years festival, including David Lynch, Sharon Stone and Micelle
Yeow. Stone has a cold, and needed to blow her nose. “It would be nice if somebody had a handkerchief for me,” she said. Lynch, sitting next to her offered her his hankie. “I do,” he said. “But it’s used.” She declined.
Shot the first Cannes special show here today in a variety of locations around town. Shooting here is difficult with the noise and crowds everywhere. On top of that we had MASSIVE technical difficulties, but managed to get the show done, and shipped back to Toronto for editing. Also met some people from Toronto, two young women who went to school here, and have come back to check out the festival. They stood in the same spot for over 5 hours in the blistering sun to get a glimpse of the red carpet, and hopefully see some stars. They were hoping for Harrison Ford or Tom
Cruise and seemed slightly disappointed when I told them that it was going to be Woody Allen on the red carpet that night…
Went to a party for DDA, one of the world’s largest publicity firms. Nice little soiree on the beach, with plenty of wine and beer for everyone. Had a
snack and a couple of Stella Artois and continued on to the Canadian
Pavilion to finish shooting for the day. The Canadian Pavilion is
Located on the beach in the International Village next to Pavilions from the
US, Holland and dozens of countries from all over the world. Nice layout inside, but the beautiful patio right on the beach is the main draw. Met Canada’s trade ambassador there and I’m sure to be spending more time there as the week goes on.
Anyway… one show is done and shipped back to Canada, only three more to go. Have loads of interviews lined up, and will likely start doing them on
Talk to you soon,
THURSDAY MAY 16th
Woke up with a start today. Disoriented. Didn’t know where I was. Late. Slightly crazed feeling. I think I must have had a really deep, almost coma-like sleep last night. Shook off the weird sleepy feeling and headed off to see “Bowling for Columbine,” the new documentary from director Michael Moore. On the walk down from the villa to the main drag I noticed that overnight the festival seemed to make the leap from merely busy to confusing and chaotic. Loads of people must have flown in last night, and then in the morning it seemed like all them were going to see the same movie as I was… I started to play a game to pass the time on the walk. I try and count the number of people on the street that a) don’t have a cell phone glued to their head, b.) don’t have a cigarette in the hands, c) doesn’t have a small yappy dog on a leash or d) some combination of all of the above. I counted two people…
I saw Eartha “Catwoman” Kitt outside the Carlton Hotel today. I have always thought she was the greatest Catwoman (move over Julie Newmar and Michelle Pfeiffer), and her song “I Want To Be Evil” should be required listening for anyone who has ever wanted to get a nine to five job and settle down in the suburbs… She looks great, at least twenty years younger than her reported age of 75.
The Troma circus has rolled into town, although chief rabble rouser
Lloyd Kaufman doesn’t arrive until Monday. Then, I imagine the Troma Team will really start to terrorize the town. They are a fixture here at Cannes, every year providing mayhem up and down the Croisette, usually parading the cast of characters from their movies — The Toxic Avenger, Mad Cowboy and Dolphin Man to name a few. They ALWAYS get into trouble. Last year I saw one of them get arrested for indecent exposure on one of the nude beaches that line the main drag. I know, I know, it’s hard to get arrested for indecent exposure on a nude beach, but this guy was only wearing a slight thong to hold in his 300 pounds… Not a pretty sight and I think the police arrested him on aesthetic grounds as much as anything else. I saw Lloyd on the street just after it happened and told him one of his guys had been arrested. “Not again,” he said. It seems everywhere Troma goes strong men weep and chaos follows. They have found a new home after getting kicked out of the swanky Carlton Hotel last year, after having their offices there for almost 20 years. Now they are just behind the Carlton. I don’t know, but if I ran the Carlton, I would want these guys where I could keep an eye on them…
Had a rather frustrating afternoon. Checking with publicists is a daily ritual. You pop your head in, say hello, make nice and hope that they give you the interviews you have requested. Today yielded interviews for an American movie called “Scorched,” Most of the cast is confirmed, although the biggest star is “being difficult” (the publicist’s words, not mine), and is unsure as to whether he wants to do interviews. I can’t tell you who it is, but if you’re interested go to IMDB.com and look it up. I don’t think it will come as much of a surprise…
Interviews for television are hard to come by here, particularly for Canadians. “Ah, the Canadian confusion…” one publicist said as I tried to confirm an interview I had booked in Toronto before I left. Seems some paperwork has gone missing, and now those spots are in jeopardy. So now, as unbelievable as it seems my interviews with Canadian directors Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg probably aren’t going to happen as expected. It’s too bad really, I like both their new movies, and would love the chance to speak to them Canadian to Canadian while I’m here… I’ll keep you posted on what happens here…
That is just the fluid nature of the Cannes Film Festival. Arrive with a plan, but be prepared to change it every five minutes or so. It can bend your head if you let it.
More about the food. Didn’t really have time to eat on Wednesday, although I grabbed a salad from a kiosk on the beach — even the fast food here is great — arugula, mozzarella and tomatoes. Delicious and not too expensive at 5 euros (about $7 Can.). On Thursday breakfast didn’t happen until about 3 pm when I grabbed some uber-tasty pastries at the Geraldine Chaplin press conference at the grand old Carlton Hotel.
Chaplin is in town to launch “The Chaplin Collection,” a set of DVDs featuring all her father’s legendary comic movies, and rare outtakes and home movies added as bonuses. With her was Warren Liederfarb from Warner Brothers, the man they call “the father of DVD,” and the French distributor of Chaplin films for the big screen Marin Karmitz.
I interviewed Ms. Chaplin one on one after the press conference. She’s a
deeply tanned, elegant woman who reminded me of an older, but well preserved Audrey Hepburn. She’s small and birdlike, but smiles easily and is fluent in both French and English. When I first spoke to her I commented on her shoes, which were red and metallic silver runners. “They’re cheaper than a facelift,” she said, “because everybody looks at the shoes and not my
She spoke lovingly about her father, and told me about the difficulties involved in getting all of Charlie Chaplin’s 8 kids to agree on the best way to preserve and make available their father’s films. If I appear distracted during the interview it’s because an obnoxious European reporter was tapping me on the back throughout my conversation with Chaplin, trying to push her way into the action. I ignored, got my interview and went on my way. So did Ms. Chaplin and the other reporter went away empty handed. I didn’t feel particularly sorry for her…
At 6:30 I did a live television interview via satellite with CBC’s Newsworld in Canada. The studio I shot it in is a spacious multi-room flat, overlooking the Croisette, and the Grand Theatre’s red carpet. I saw Sharon Stone, and think I saw Jack Nicholson, but was too far away to tell. While I was waiting to go on a couple of us sat and watched “Loft Story” on television with the sound turned down. It’s a reality show, a la the Canadian production “The Lofters.” Not really sure what it was all about. It’s a huge hit in France, but just seems to be about three girls in Thongs mopping the floor and washing their hair. I’m not complaining, I just didn’t really understand the story. The CBC interview went well, although the satellite cut out midway through.
That’s about it for today… early day tomorrow with screenings in the
morning and interviews in the afternoon.
FRIDAY MAY 17
Here’s what I take with me everyday when I leave the villa: a map of
Cannes, my cell phone, 10 – 15 pages of research, a lighter (all the cute French girls smoke), several pens, including one that lights up for writing in the dark and the latest edition of Daily Variety. Here’s what I usually come home with: 3 – 4 Beta tapes, about 50 pounds worth of press releases and magazines (OK, maybe I exaggerate, but not by much), 2 or 3 promotional T-shirts, and several promotional ball caps. Today someone gave me a box of cigars. It’s no wonder that my back aches and I think I’m developing a hunchback.
So far the best swag item has been an Evian “Brumisateur,” a water pump so I can spritz myself frequently while walking around in the blistering heat.
There are movie posters everywhere. On almost every square inch of available space on the streets, plastered on the sides of the hotels… everywhere. So far the strangest one I have seen is for a movie called “Citizen Jury.” I recognized Christopher Lambert from the poster… not hard to do as the guy always has at least one cheesy movie at Cannes, but I struggled to see who the other star was. “Looks like Jerry Springer,” I laughed to myself. When I stopped chuckling I realized that yes, MAN OH MAN, it is Jerry Springer, looking very serious, and if I may say, almost respectable. The movie’s slogan is: “Watch, Vote and Execute… All in the name of justice.” I’m thinking to myself they should add something about transvestite taxi drivers with unnatural lust for poodles to attract some of Jerry’s core audience… It’s all about the marketing.
Saw a movie called “Scorched” this morning. It stars Woody Harrelson and Rachel Leigh Cook (you’ll remember her as Josie in “Josie and the Pussycats). I’m not allowed to review the movie as yet; there is an embargo on reviews until after they have found a distributor. I can tell you it is a
story about four separate people all of whom decide to rob the same bank on the same day.
After the movie I went to the splashy Noga Hilton on the Croisette to do interviews for a film called “Intacto.” It’s a fascinating film about the nature of luck, why some people have and others don’t. It’s a very complicated, slow moving picture by Spanish first time feature film director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. I had the great pleasure of sitting with Max Von Sydow, a man I consider one of the great screen actors of our time. Who could forget him as killer-for-hire Joubert in “Three Days of the Condor,” or as Father Merrin in “The Exorcist,” not to mention his work with legendary director Ingmar Bergman. He’s a large man, who walks slowly, but that is the only hint that he is in his mid-seventies. He is a lively conversationalist, witty and not at all like the stone faced serious characters that he usually plays on film. He talked about many things, (the interview will air next week), including how much he loves Toronto. He was there in 1983 to film “Strange Brew,” and fondly remembered the look of the city, especially how old and new buildings co-exist, and while the glass paneled skyscrapers look very modern, somehow the mixing of old and new works. He is a charming man, and it was a real treat and honor to spend some time with him.
I also spoke to the film’s star Leonardo Sbaraglia, a Spanish movie actor with many films and awards to his credit. Cool guy. Didn’t speak English very well, but we had a translator and we had a nice talk. Also spoke to director Fresnadillo, who spoke perfect English, and was able to articulate some of the heavy concepts contained in his film.
After the interviews I left the Noga with its beautiful panoramic view of Cannes, and visited some publicists, trying to line up more interviews. More luck today than yesterday. It looks like several of the interviews that were in jeopardy yesterday are going to happen. I just have to keep my fingers crossed, and keep harassing the PR people. That seems to be the name of the game here in Cannes. The bigger the pain in the butt you are, the more they
cooperate with you.
Daily food update: After my meetings with the publicists I headed over to the American Pavilion down by the ocean. They have guest chefs coming in all week. Today was Mario Batali from the “Malto Mario” television show on The Food Network. For lunch I had Prosciutto San Daniele with Black Pepper Fett’unta and Baby Spinach Salad. It was great — I have yet to have bad food here — and tasted better because I sat on the beach and ate it. Lots of food, and only 10 Euros (about $14 Can).
The interviews for “Scorched” turned out to be scorchers, as they were held on the pier at the Majestic Beach. Rachel Leigh Cook was lovely, although she’s very, very, very small and has the tiniest feet I have ever seen. I was concerned that she might fall over during the interview… We talked about “Josie and the Pussycats” and why it didn’t do more business in the theatres. She tells me there are no plans for a sequel, so don’t expect to see “Josie and the Pussycats In Space” anytime soon. She also told me she loves Toronto, and that her mom is obsessed with Honest Ed’s, the enormous bargain store on Bloor Street West. Also spoke to the film’s director Gavin Grazer and Marcus Thomas, the actor who plays Cook’s love interest. The final interview of the day was with Paulo Costanzo, a Toronto-born actor who has recently had success with “Road Trip” and “40 days and 40 Nights.” It turns out that we have a mutual friend. My literary agent has known Paulo’s family for years. Paulo also told me that he wanted to turn down “Road Trip” because he thought it was such a terrible script. It was ridiculously hot on the pier, but everybody was in good spirits and the interviews went well.
After that went to the opening night party at the Canadian Pavilion. As with all good Canadian parties, it was packed, everyone was standing at the bar, and there was more than enough beer and wine for everyone. Met some cool people, and had a long and very funny conversation with the director of a new movie called “Eve,” which is billed as “An Exotic Adventure.” Also at the party was Bruce Kirkland from the Toronto Sun and “The Young and the Restless'” Tonya Lee Williams.
On the way home I saw some bizarre stuff… The street performers are out in
full force, there are mimes, jugglers, buskers and some guy painted gold who poses like Buddha…. But tonight I saw an older lady dressed like a clown SCREAMING at a mother and her baby. Yelling at the top of her lungs in French, and even though my grasp of the French language is tenuous, I could pick out the profanities from her tirade. It’s no wonder everybody hates clowns. That poor baby is going to be scarred for life. Also saw two guys dressed head to toe in old soda cans… hundreds of them attached to their clothes. They walked in rhythm, making a sound that reminded me of what it might be like if you filled up several oil cans with marbles and rolled them down the street. Noisy, but hilarious.
Also saw Academy Award winner Randy Newman on the street. He was much bigger than I expected he would be (he kind of looked like Sullivan, the big blue creature John Goodman voiced in “Monster’s Inc.), I stood next to him on the street, and noticed that he was humming “That’s What Friends Are For,” the cheesy Elton John / Dionne Warwick tune. It actually sounded OK coming from Randy….
As I write this I am sitting on the balcony of the “Reel To Real” villa with a view of downtown Cannes and the ocean. Tonight is clear and warm and there is a display of dancing lights in the sky. It’s beautiful. They have 40 or more klieg lights shooting upwards from the beach, and swaying in rhythm… it kind of reminds me of the old laser light shows at The Planetarium in Toronto… A nice image to take to bed.
SATURDAY MAY 18
I have a tan! I rarely ever spend enough time in the sun in Toronto to get any color at all, but I seem to have picked up a tan… rather a sunburn just by walking around.
Did several interviews this morning. Jean-Marie Poire, the French director who is best known in North America for “Just Visiting” was first up. He is promoting his latest French language farce “My Wife Maurice,” and was a delight. The movie is very funny, and will probably play very well in Europe. We talked about the failure of “Just Visiting” to find an audience in North America, and he explained that the final version of the film was not the movie he intended to make. He didn’t have final cut, and felt the movie wasn’t as funny as he wanted it to be. But he was philosophical about his Hollywood experience. “I’ve made 50 films, and only two haven’t been successful, so I can’t complain too much,” he said with a laugh.
Next we searched for the elusive location of our next interview. Confusion! Mega-Triple-Double-Dog-Dare-Ya Confusion… After getting a variety of directions, and lugging a metric ton of equipment all over the place, we found our spot… only it was closed for lunch. After some negotiations we found another spot and spoke to the makers of a film called “Japon.” The director and director, Carlos Reygadas, based this story on an old family friend, Alejandro Ferretis, who plays himself in the movie. They both spoke very good English (that is a real concern over here when dealing with international actors and filmmakers) and were very entertaining; I just wish I had more time to spend with them.
Next up was the usual barrage of phone calls to publicists while I ate a
Cobb Salad Wrap at the American Pavilion… remember, I said food was very important to me, and I have been missing far too many meals since I’ve been here. The calls were fruitful, and I booked interviews for “Spider” and “Ararat,” both of which I thought had gone south. Then a visit to the Troma Office just behind the Carlton Hotel. Oh Lloyd, what have you wrought? I met this kid from Madrid who had traveled at his own expense to be in Cannes, and work for free with the Troma Team. “Wouldn’t miss it for anything,” he said. He also invited me to a Troma sponsored yacht party. “Get there early if you want to drink,” he warned me, “the Troma people like to hose back the booze…”
I took a pass on the Troma drunk-a-thon, choosing instead to go to the Hong
Kong In Cannes party on the Carlton Beach. Despite a slight drizzle of rain the place was packed. So far they win for the complete excellence of the food, and the unique way they displayed it. Four large food trees, which canapés for branches were the centerpieces, but were surrounded by food stations with salmon, dim sum, and a food area. There were four bars, two inside and two out. Also another very cool thing they had was a small attachment that hooked on to the side of your plate to hold your glass of champagne. Excellent idea, as it keeps your hands free and your drinks close. I think it must be a rule in France that when the champagne is free you have to have at least three glasses… I hate to break the rules…
The show at the Honk Kong party was amazing. On stage they had traditional Chinese musicians, a Kung Fu demonstration, a 20 foot dragon that danced and winked, a host of Hong Kong stars, including Maggie Cheung, two of Honk Kong’s biggest actors, both named Tony Leung, and several Asian directors.
Almost saw my first fist fight of the festival. Cannes is notorious for the in-fighting that happens between photographers who are all vying for the same shot. I haven’t seen too much action in the scrums this year until tonight when two photogs bumped into one another, and BOOM, it was World War Five in photographer land. The fight was mostly verbal, but one guy did take a swing, missed and was then escorted out by a security guard. I was hoping the Kung Fu masters would become involved. That would have been a show.
Went to bed at midnight after the party. Have to be up early to see “Punch Drunk Love,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and starring Adam Sandler. I loved Anderson’s last two movies “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights,” so I’m curious to see this one.
SUNDAY MAY 19
Lists. Cannes is all about lists. I have a black notebook that never leaves my side. In it are my contacts phone numbers, hastily scribbled notes, show ideas and lists and lists and lists of things to do. Each list usually starts with: 1.) Check list… I need all the reminders I can get…
First movie today was Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch Drunk Love” at the Grand Theatre. It’s the largest of the festival’s movie houses holding upwards of 1000 people. As I wrote last night I loved “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights,” but unfortunately lightening has not struck a third time. “Punch Drunk Love” I think, was an attempt by Anderson to pare down the epic length movies he is known for and make something simpler and more linear. He has accomplished that, cutting the running time down to one and a half hours from his usual three, but in doing that has sacrificed character development. I was hoping this would be Adam Sandler’s entry to adult roles, and while he is almost there, he displays no ability to grow and develop into a believable character. His Barry Egan is a distributor of novelty items (like plungers with dice on them for use in Casinos), with a severe anger management problem. He falls in love with Lena (Emily Watson) while at the same time becoming involved in a phone-sex extortion scam. Not a bad premise, but when the main character is hard to identify with it makes it difficult for the viewer to feel sympathy or any connection to them. Sandler stretches his usual teen-movie shtick a little bit, but not enough to satisfy. After the movie there was a small smattering of applause rather than the usual ovation given for the “In Competition” films. Watch “Reel To Real” for a full review.
Next up was an interview I had been trying to set up since the day I got here. Three members of Andy Warhol’s Factory family are here to promote the screenings of a trio of cult films — “Flesh” “Heat” and “Trash” – produced by Warhol and directed by Paul Morrissey. I sat and spoke with Morrissey, Joe Dellessandro and Holly Woodlawn at their elegant apartment on the Boulevard D’Alace. Morrissey has been called “America’s most undervalued and least shown major director.” As Andy Warhol’s right hand man he ran the factory, put together and managed The Velvet Underground and directed the films that Warhol presented. Dellessadndro starred in many of the films, including the three being shown here, as well as “The Loves of Ondine,” “Lonesome Cowboy” and “Blood for Dracula.” The photo of him that graces the cover of the “Flesh” DVD, dressed in a black t-shirt and headband staring menacingly into the camera is one of the iconic photographs of the 1970’s New York art scene. He has continued to work in both mainstream and art films. Holly Woodlawn (born Harold Danhakl) also performed in many of Warhol’s movies, but is probably best remembered as the subject of Lou Reed’s song “Walk On the Wild Side.” Remember the opening line? “Holly came from Miami FLA… hitch-hiked her way across the USA… plucked her eyebrows on the way, shaved her legs then he was a she…” Apparently Holly is still walking on the wild side, as she was rather hung
over from the Vanity Fair party the night before. Morrissey was great… he’s a provocateur who isn’t afraid to make statements like “Andy couldn’t read or write…” or refer to Lou Reed as “that AWFUL Lou Reed.” An interesting interview with three of the major figures in underground filmmaking. I particularly like Morrissey, maybe because he said I was “charming and informed.”
On the way back to the Croisette I saw Hayden Christenson on the street.
He’s probably having one of the most surreal weekends of his life, with “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones” opening all over the world. When he wakes up on Monday morning, and the box office results are in his life is going to be changed forever.
By midday we were at the Martinez Hotel to do interviews for the still in-production “Bulletproof Monk.” (It’s shooting in Toronto until July.) Getting into the hotel was a bit of a trail as Adam Sandler was trying to leave the hotel as hundreds of fans were swarming the entrance. We got in and saw an 11 minute roughly cut excerpt of the movie. Interesting to see it in its unfinished state with very little music or sound effects and very rudimentary special effects. Having had just a taste of it, I have to say it’s kind of like eating a cake before it has been baked… the dough is OK, but could be better. I think it’s going to be an eye-popper when it is finished.
Jamie King (she’s no longer James King) is beautiful. I have interviewed her before for “Pearl Harbor,” but her whole look has changed. Last time I met her she had short blonde pin curls, a real 1940’s glam look, now her hair is a more grown-up long and a reddy-brunette. She kind of reminded me of
Sharon Tate. She was staring in my general direction, so I looked behind me to see what was going on. “No, it’s you,” she said. “You have really great hair.” Seann William Scott (from the “American Pie” movies was very nice, had lots of nice things to say about Toronto, and called me “Dude” several times.
The final call of the day was the Telefilm Party at the Savoy Hotel. It seemed to be the day to interview beautiful women. I spoke with the Canadian producer, publicist and director of “Eve,” a breathtakingly hypnotic journey of a young woman searching for her soul mate in a time before time as the first day dawns. (She’s looking for Adam, get it?) They were all great, but the star, model Inger Ebeltoft, the former Miss Norway and current Miss Cannes It Girl was beautiful, smart, and funny. Her photo call on the beach earlier in the day dressed in her “Eve” bikini almost started a riot…
Tomorrow is an interview with Michael Moore in the morning, so I’ll sign off so I can prepare…
MONDAY MAY 20
Busy day today, although a good chunk of it was spent waiting around to do interviews. Arrived at the Majestic Beach at 10:30 am after making my usual rounds of all the publicist’s offices. My call time for the Michael Moore “Bowling for Columbine” interview was 10:50, but as soon as we arrived we were told that they were running at least an hour late. “Just ask him one question and you’ll get a twenty minute answer,” one publicist told me. Moore likes to talk, and was giving every media outlet his full attention, so the schedule was blown out right away.
We waited, getting more sun burnt by the minute until it was our turn at
12:10. It was well worth the wait. In person Moore is as engaging and funny as he is on his television show “the Awful Truth,” or in his documentary movies. He remembered me from our chance meeting on the Croisette earlier in the week, and answered each of my questions with long detailed replies.
When the publicist came by to break up the interview, he waved her off saying, “Hey, these guys came all the way from Canada and have been waiting all morning. I’m enjoying this.” Then he turned to me and said, “Ask me some more questions…” We continued for another 10 minutes or so, while he talked about how much he likes and admires Canada, hates Mike Harris and thinks we should take the Queen off our money. This one was definitely a highlight… I could have talked to him for hours.
Next was lunch at the American Pavilion with the crew, Bryan, my trusty cameraman Mark and my special guest host for the Cannes shows Denis Seguin. Denis is a reporter for Screen International, and has made frequent radio and television appearances. He is in Cannes writing for Screen
International, Canadian Business and doing a radio piece for CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera. After some salads and Mexican food we headed off to Casa “Reel To Real” to shoot reviews for “Ararat,” “Spider,” “Punch Drunk Love,” and “Bowling for Columbine.” He was great — nice insights to the films, and we didn’t always agree, so I think the reviews are lively and entertaining.
No star sightings on the street today, although I did get to interview a young Canadian actor named David Alpay, the lead in Atom Egoyan’s “Ararat.” He’s a U of T science student who auditioned for the film on a lark thinking he might get some work as an extra. Instead he got the lead… We spoke at the Alliance Atlantic office on Rue Mace, with a brass band playing in the street below. He’s a nice guy, level headed and very smart. Enjoyed meeting him, and I think he will be offered more screen work when people see his work in “Ararat.”
Following that interview we headed for the jaws of hell. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that covering a film festival is glamorous easy work. It’s not as I was reminded on Monday night. We were asked to cover a red carpet event for the film “Gangs of New York,” which was happening at a restaurant called Baoli down by the water. We arrived at 5, ready to set up our equipment, but were asked to stand back and wait until the organizers arrived. Keep in mind it’s about one million degrees here… we waited until it was time to be herded like cattle into a cordoned off area next to the red carpet. The idea is that the stars walk by and you can ask them a few questions before they head off to dinner. We waited. And waited. Then waited some more. They booked too many media outlets, so everybody was crammed into this tiny space, hoping to get a couple of minutes with Cameron Diaz, Leonardo D’Caprio and Martin Scorsese. At 7:30 we heard police sirens which announced the arrival of Mr. Scorsese’s limo. Mega crush time in the media pen as everybody surged forward to get a few words from the famous director.
He spoke to Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, E! and… Reel To
Real before moving along and going inside. Cool, one down and two more to go. Leonardo was next, and chatted with the American press first, and just as I got his attention, and had half of my question out his personal publicist hauled him away. Ditto for Cameron Diaz. Now if I had the choice of any of these people I would take Mr. Scorsese, so that part was satisfying, but we waited over three hours in the blistering sun for these people to show up, and then left with just a few minutes of tape. Not glamorous. Not pretty. I feel like sending Cameron Diaz a bill for the medicated aloe cream I had to buy for the sunburn I got while waiting around for her.
I’m over that little blip now, but I am feeling slightly crazy from the heat… a long day of standing around that yielded some cool stuff, Michael
Moore and Martin Scorsese, but I think I may have fried my noodle a little bit. Time for bed.
TUESDAY MAY 21
No early appointments today but I just can’t seem to sleep in. I hate that.
Woke up at the ungodly hour of 7:30 am and wandered around the apartment, trying to figure out the rest of the day…
We had to Fed Ex another load of tapes back to Canada at 11:30 am, so we decided to hit the Croisette and shoot the “tops and tails” for each segment of the second show. As I mentioned a few days ago shooting outside is tough because of the noise and the crowds. Here it is doubly difficult given the large wandering herds of people who tend to wander in and out of camera range, and the sounds of traffic in the background. But we got downtown early before it got too crazy and banged off enough footage for the second show.
Lunch! I love lunch! Today Mark and I went to a little cafe just off the main drag and had pasta and very strong caffeinated drinks. Got a call from
Jesse Rosensweet a Canadian short film director who is showing his movie
“The Stine of Folly” in competition here. I think he was sitting right behind me at the same restaurant. We made arrangements to do an interview on Wednesday or Thursday.
Then it was back to Casa R2R to get more equipment for the remainder of the day’s shooting schedule. Several interviews booked, and we’re running out of Beta tape. We brought more tape with us this year, but have shot three times as much stuff this year as last… Bryan has spent most of the morning trying to track down tapes for us to use…
It’s still really busy here, although there seem to be fewer people around on Tuesday. Last night, sitting on our balcony we could hear the chimes of cell phones from the street as hurried reporters ran from screening to screening, taking calls and talking loudly… It was a long week-end here which added to the crush of tourists who clog the streets here, stargazing.
But most of them seem to have left now, and it is a little easier to get around… but only a little easier. There is fluidity to covering Cannes that takes a few days to get used to. Interviews are scheduled. Interviews are cancelled. Then they’re back on, but on a different day and time. Of course this new time always conflicts with something else you have already set up, so then you have to make a series of phone calls to publicists to try and convince them to juggle their schedules to accommodate yours. Nothing and I mean nothing, runs on time… but after a while I began to enjoy the challenge of working within the Cannes chaos. As they say: The only constant is change… that should be the motto of Cannes.
The final interviews of the day are for two highly anticipated Canadian films — “Ararat” and “Spider.” These have been difficult to arrange, and both the publicists and the interviewees have been very co-operative. First was Patrick McGrath, the English-born writer of both the novel and screenplay for “Spider.” He’s a big blustery man, and not at all what I expected. I thought he would be a scowling Goth type, dressed in black with tattoos and skull earrings. Instead I am presented with an outgoing multi-talented guy who has written horror novels, thrillers, children’s books and literary works. I asked him about why he chooses to explore the themes of mental illness in his books, and he told me about growing up on the grounds of a mental hospital that his father ran… It’s a good story, but you’ll have to tune into the show to hear it…
Next I zipped over to the Toronto Film Festival party at the Gray D’Albion Beach. I could only stay a few minutes, but saw Piers handling and the rest of the film festival staff who are here scouting movies for our September festival. Also Michael Moore stopped by to say hello. Then it was off to the Grand Salon of the Carlton Hotel to interview Arsinee Khanjian, the lead actress in “Ararat.” We talked about many things, and I reminded her that years ago when I was a waiter at Southern Accent she came in one night, and while trying to show someone her wedding ring, accidentally tossed it over the patio and it disappeared into a flower bed. I ran and got a flashlight, and after a 20 minute search we found it… She vividly remembered that night and we had a good laugh about it.
Here’s an interesting aside… Arsinee is married to “Ararat’s” director Atom Egoyan. The Cannes film festival this year coincided with the run of a play she was doing in Toronto, so rather than have her miss the opening night of the film at the Grand Theatre, Atom and his partners bought out the play for the days she was to be away…
After speaking with Arsinee I hoofed it over to the Alliance Atlantis office just off the Croistette to interview Atom Egoyan. Due to the “Canadian confusion” I spoke about a few days ago a number of Canadian media outlets were left off the list to interview Mr. Egoyan. Since his schedule was already packed there didn’t seem to be a way to fit any of us in. Now, remember earlier when I was talking about the interviewees being very co-operative? I’m thinking of Atom Egoyan. He spent eight hours doing interviews; one right after the other, in seven different languages, under hot lights the night after his film received a fifteen minute standing ovation at the Grand Theatre. He probably just wanted to go out and celebrate, but instead agreed to meet with the Canadian press for another round of interviews… He was tired, but gracious and I appreciate that he helped me and my show out.
Out to dinner afterwards… pizza at an outdoor cafe, and then off to Casa
R2R to write, and plan the shows we have to shoot on Wednesday…
WEDNESDAY MAY 22
Finally a slack day! Of course it is also the worst weather we’ve had which caused us some problems as we tried to shoot parts of the show. The howling wind prevented us from shooting for most of the morning – you just can’t get good sound with wind whipping by the microphone at one hundred miles an hour… We spent the day shooting “b-roll,” some beauty shots of Cannes to be used in montages and exploring the old part of the city.
Got an alarming phone call from our editor Vince. Seems none of the tapes we sent yesterday have arrived. The courier has misplaced them… all thirty of them. We tracked them and discovered they are in Paris, so at least we know where they are, but it means show number two will be late by a day. The missing tapes contain pretty much everything we’ve shot — all the interviews, the parties, the b-roll and the reviews with Denis Seguin — four shows worth of stuff. I hope and pray they show up in Toronto on Thursday.
The porn festival is moving into town. Each year at the end of the regular festival a porn convention starts just outside of town, and you can really see the difference. Today we saw a woman on the street dressed (?) head to toe in a sheer see-through outfit and nothing else… The porn festival is well attended, just not very well reported. Each year the mainstream film business brings in about $4 billion, while the porn industry is almost double that. So they come here and spend loads of cash and are welcomed by the local merchants and hotels.
As the festival winds down to the closing day you can really see the toll it is taking on everybody. Security, who used to greet you with a “Bonjour,” now simply look at you with contempt as they frisk you and check your bags.
Reporters are all talking about going home and how much they are looking forward to it, and the nice woman in the media lounge is looking tired and isn’t as friendly as she was earlier in the week. It’s a burn-out job covering any festival, but this one seems to really take it out of you. The confusion, the heat, the waiting around… it’s very draining.
On Thursday we have to finish shooting the shows regardless of the weather. I spent the night preparing material and getting ready, and praying for sunshine.
THURSDAY MAY 23
Rainy, windy day… not great for shooting, but we’ll have to make do. Found a spot in front of the Canadian Pavilion that was protected from the crappy weather and shot the remaining “stand-ups” for the fourth show, and then stood in the rain to shoot stuff for the hour-long special.
Had an interesting conversation with the producer of “Spider” at the Canadian Pavilion. He tells me the reaction to the film over here in France has been very good, and foreign sales of the film are doing well. It’s a very European feeling film, so I’m not surprised that sales are brisk.
The final story I wanted to cover over here was a movie called “Only the
Strong Survive,” a documentary by legendary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker.
In the Sixties Pennebaker made one of the best rock and roll movies ever,
“Don’t Look Back” about Bob Dylan. “Only the Strong Survive” is a look at the soul singers of the 1960s – Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave), Carla Thomas, Wilson Pickett, The Chi-Lites, Ann Peebles and Mary Wilson — and what they are doing now. So many didn’t make it — Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, almost all of The Temptations… the list goes on and on. Those who did survive and thrive after their turn in the spotlight frequently have inspiring stories, and that’s what this movie is all about. Sam Moore is a prime example. In the late 1960s he and singing partner Dave Prater placed a handful of hits in the Top Ten, including the classics “Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m Coming,” “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” “I Thank You,” and “Soothe Me” under the name Sam and Dave. After the hits stopped Moore and Prater went their separate ways, had failed solo careers and developed serious drug habits. In 1978 the success of The Blues Brothers re-recording of “Soul Man” saw Sam and Dave briefly reunite. Personal differences and drug problems seemed to doom the duo to a life of semi-obscurity. Fortunately with the help of his wife Joyce Moore has been clean ever since 1982, and it is his story that provides the “soul” of “Only The Strong Survive.”
I met Moore and his wife on a patio overlooking the ocean at the American Pavilion. Moore looks fit and trim, with the grin of a man who has been there and back, and is happy to have made it through. In the interview I asked him to explain soul music. Why is it different than pop music? He sang part of his answer. “It’s all in the phrasing and the attack,” he said, before singing a line from a pop song, then bending and caressing the notes the way he would sing it. It gave me goose bumps to sit next to one of the great soul singers of the 60s and have him sing just for me… Also a couple of other revelations from Mr. Moore: He doesn’t like being called a soul singer; he likes Celine Dion and doesn’t care for his biggest hit “Soul Man.”
Also spoke with D.A. Pennebaker and his partner Chris Hegedus. He’s a seminal figure in the world of documentaries and his work (now in collaboration with Hegedus) is still as vital and exciting as it was almost 40 years ago when he pioneered “cinema verite.” He’s a self effacing man who allows his wife Chris to do most of the talking. He tells me he doesn’t care for labels, and doesn’t think of his work as “cinema verite,” just good movies. They are an interesting couple who have managed to work together and keep a relationship going for almost 25 years. That’s almost unheard of in the film world.
They were the final interview of the trip, and I was feeling pretty good about the work we had done — loads of interviews, lots of tape to sort through back in Toronto — certainly enough to put together 4 half-hour shows and an hour special. Then Vince, the voice of doom called from an editing suite in Toronto. The tapes finally arrived at the station after the courier had “misplaced” them, but all of the trailers we had dubbed from Pal to the NTSC format were unusable… The company we had hired in Cannes blew it and the audio was sped up on all of them. “Everyone sounds like chipmunks,” Vince told me on my cell.
My head nearly exploded. The last ten days had gone well… really well… almost too well. We were really busy, and had gathered great material and had hit all our deadlines. To have a technical glitch bugger up ten days of work was almost more than I could bear. We had to gather all the tapes again, and have then re-dubbed by someone else and Fed Ex’d overnight to Toronto so we could make our next deadline. The 2nd show probably won’t make it to air on time, but if everything works the way I am planning we’ll only be one airing late.
This news kind of ruined the high I had been riding on, thinking we had pulled this off… At least Vince called after dinner (roasted red peppers with chevre, filet of beef with a pepper sauce and seasonal vegetables with a bottle of wine, followed by Marquees au Chocolate) so he didn’t spoil my appetite.
Unfortunately I’ll be traveling all day on Friday, and won’t be reachable until 6 pm Toronto time, so I won’t know if the situation is really fixable… you gotta know that’s driving me nuts.
I have to be up at 4:30 am, so I’ll sign off now…
FRIDAY MAY 24
Went to bed at 10:30 pm on my last night in Cannes. I had to be up at 4 am
(note to self: get a new travel agent) to drive to Nice, catch a flight to
Paris and then another to Toronto. Today’s going to be a long day and I want to be at least semi-rested, but I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about all my interviewees talking like chipmunks to one another…
Here’s something I didn’t need to see first thing in the morning, after only a couple hours of sleep… Someone (Mark the cameraman or Bryan the EP) left the round wall mirror with the magnified side facing out. Oh, I know it sounds like a little thing, but literally the first thing I saw this morning was my enormous tanned head, magnified to three times its usual size. I wasn’t quite awake and thought perhaps over the night I had grown and swollen to become some kind of gigantic freak. What if I don’t fit into my plane seat?
As soon as Mark and I walked out of the apartment door with our luggage and made our way down to the waiting cab the trip was over for me. The rest is just an endurance test — making flight connections and killing 4 hours at Paris airport, then an eight hour flight to Toronto.
I’m a facts and figures kind of guy… so here’s a list of some information you need to know about “Reel To Real”’s 2002 trip to the Cannes International Film Festival…
1. Number of tubes of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles consumed by R2R
2. Estimated liters of water I drank each day: 5
3. Best food at a party: Hong Kong At Cannes bash on Saturday. I’m still dreaming about the dim sum…
4. Hours spent waiting in the blistering sun for Martin Scorsese: 3
5. Number of times a day I was told “It’s not possible” by someone connected to the festival: 7
6. Most elegant interview subject: Max Von Sydow
7. Smallest interview subject: Rachel Leigh Cook. She’s lovely and smart, and I liked her very much, but she has the smallest feet I have ever seen…
8. Funniest interview subject: Michael Moore
9. Number of hours spent in Cannes: 231
10. Number of interviews: 29
11. Number of hours spent waiting for interviews to begin: 31
12. Number of Stella Artois consumed: Not telling…
13. Number of bad Adam Sandler movies I saw: 1… I seem to be the only person in Cannes that didn’t like “Punch Drunk Love”…
14. Number of souvenirs purchased in Cannes: 0… I had no time…
15. Number of people we met who inspired a classic rock song: 1… Holly
Woodlawn was the inspiration for the Lou Reed tune “Walk On the Wild
My plan was to sleep on the plane from Paris to Toronto, get a decent rest and feel good once I got home… of course it didn’t happen… It looked good right up until about a minute before we took off. Mark and I get our seats, and they’re nice, spacious and there’s NOBODY sitting around us. Perfect. I’m looking at my watch, and as we get closer to departure time I’m thinking that the plane is undersold and we’re going to have all this space to ourselves… One second before we took off a large extended family — grandmothers to infants — come rolling in and fill up all the seats around us, including grandmother who has never flown before sitting next to me, and a newborn sitting right behind me. Eight hours of wailing and crying… and that was just me complaining about the noise this family was making.
Anyway, it wasn’t a restful trip.
Got to Toronto roughly on time, and then took two hours to get downtown. Mobs of people everywhere… hard to get a cab. The hardest part of getting home was actually the last journey from the airport to my house… Dropped off my luggage, and tried to answer as many of my 22 voice messages as I could before passing out. I had been up since 10 pm (Toronto time) the night before and it is now midnight…
I’m tired, but I think it was worth it. We got to interview loads of people, including a few I had always wanted to talk to like Max Von Sydow, Michael Moore and Martin Scorsese, see some great movies and bake in the sun for almost two weeks… Hope you enjoy the shows…
Some days it would be better just to stay in bed. Even before I left my
house I had the uncanny feeling that today was only going to bring heartache and misery. I had heard part of a news story about a government strike in France, but didn’t get all the details. Even thought I was about to leave for Paris, I thought, who cares if the mail isn’t getting delivered? Next time I won’t be so smug.
To be safe I looked on the internet for details, and there was nothing about a strike, so I called a cab. Thirty-five minutes later I begin to think that maybe it’s the Toronto cabs that are on strike, and not some postal workers in Europe. When the cabbie finally pulled up in front of my house I was running quite late. He guaranteed me he could get me to the airport on time, and then drove down a one-way street (which I didn’t even know existed, despite living in the neighborhood for six years), running into a dead end. We have to back out, and narrowly miss hitting another parked car. “No problem,” he says as we idle in traffic. Thirty five minutes later I arrive at the airport, forty dollars poorer and twenty-five minutes late.
The Air France people are helpful and despite my late arrival take good care of me. For the first time in my traveling life I have to fill out a Sars form. I give them my name and address and promise not to spread Sars in Europe. OK, off to the plane.
The flight is good. Air France’s Business Class is lovely, with large seats, lots of leg room and good food — dinner was a hors d’oeuvre of lobster accompanied with a mango salad, followed by tournedos of beef with sun dried tomato butter, artichoke bottom filled with ratatouille, Parisian potatoes and French green beans with a chocolate mousse for dessert – and several movies to choose from. I watched a bit of Frida and parts of Just Married before catching a few minutes sleep. I was woken by a loud yelp. Apparently the woman in the next aisle screams in her sleep. After that I was too unnerved to nap. Later I have breakfast — fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries and freshly squeezed orange juice — and finish reading my notes for the
There is always much to do. I tend to over prepare because I find the first couple of days at Cannes always leave me unsettled. In my heart I know that no matter how much I plan, in the end it is up to the cinema gods (and some really tired publicists) to dictate what is going to happen to me over the next ten or twelve days.
As we are landing in Paris I do one last check of my ticket for the connecting flight to Nice. It says I don’t leave until 9:25 pm. Must be a mistake. My itinerary says I am scheduled to fly out at 10:30 am. I stay calm and figure I can sort it out once we’re on the ground.
Nope. It’s chaos in the airport. Flights are cancelled. People are confused.
There are long wait lists for flights that will probably never happen.
You see, there is a strike. A general one day strike was called in Paris on
Tuesday to protest the government’s plan to change the state pension plan.
After some tussling with the ticket agents we opt to take the confirmed
9:25 pm flight — a full twelve hours after we landed — rather than wait around for waitlisted flights that are likely going to be cancelled.
A number of us rent a room at the closest Hilton to drop off our equipment and luggage and head for Paris. If you have to be stranded somewhere
Paris is not a bad choice. At this point I’ve been awake (with the exception of my interrupted nap) for about twenty hours, but I am excited at the chance to see one of the great cities of the world. By the time we get to Paris it is actually cold. Not a big deal, except that I am dressed for the South of France which is hot and steamy. I have to buy some clothes. Not a bad way to kill a day — shopping in Paris — but not what I had in mind.
Paris is a bit of a blur. We start at the Trockadero, which is the perfect vantage point to see the Eiffel Tower, which is much larger than I imagined it would be. Next we made our way to the Arc d’Triumph and walked down the Champs d’ellysee, stopping every now and again to check out a cafe or a store. We also went to Notre Dame. I was blown away by the gothic architecture and the fact that I was standing in a building that was over 700 years old, but something that happened outside the cathedral was quite strange. As we walked down the street enjoying the sun I noticed that it had started raining — on the other side of the street! If we had moved just a few feet to our left we would have been soaked. I’ve never seen such a thing. I was either hallucinating, or that was an omen of some kind.
We head back to the airport to confirm our 9:25 pm flight at 6:30. We wait.
And wait. All seems to be going well. Then at 9:00 pm there is an announcement. The flight has been cancelled. Up until that point I was fairly good natured about this whole thing. It was a large inconvience, but I got to spend some time in Paris, and although I was very tired (32 hours, no sleep) I wanted to support the workers who just wanted the pension they had worked for. Power to the people! But after the plane was cancelled, after I had waited thirteen hours for a flight that wasn’t going to happen, after I had been snubbed by a Parisian cab driver, a surly shuttle bus attendant and a host of others, I begin to think there is a wide-ranging Gallic plot to make me unhappy and uncomfortable. I really need to sleep.
We find a hotel nearby, although the shuttle bus driver doesn’t stop the first time around and our five minute drive turns into a forty-five minute sight seeing tour. We arrive at the Ibis Gare around 11:30 pm. Here’s a
French travel tip: Never stay at the Ibis Gare!
I set the alarm clock on my cell phone for 7:30 and fall into a fitful, but coma-like sleep.
WEDNESDAY MAY 14
The strike is over, although I later hear from Katrina Onstad that she had travel trouble on Wednesday because one train engineer decided to wage a personal strike and not drive the train she was one. Our plane to Nice leaves on time, and although it is crowded and the seats are small, I don’t care. I just want to get this trip properly started.
I realize I’m still feeling the residual tired / grumpy feeling from yesterday. Five or six hours of sleep isn’t enough to compensate for pulling a thirty-six hour all nighter. I know I’m out of sorts when I note that it isn’t even nine am and I have already yelled at two people.
That feeling fades when we get in the cab to take us to Cannes. The weather is beautiful, the scenery spectacular and while it doesn’t make up for the lack of sleep and inconvience it sure makes me feel a lot better.
We arrive by mid-day and get settled into Casa Reel to Real, which is a large apartment close to downtown. We have stayed in this building for the past two years, but this is the first time in this flat. It’s very spacious, with a large balcony and two bathrooms and multiple rooms, but feels like it was decorated by Cheech and Chong. There is definitely a 1970s den vibe going on here. Who am I to complain. It’s got a bed!!!
We shop for some groceries, get our press passes and cell phones before shooting some beauty shots of Cannes. I’m too tired to hunt down any interviews today, but not too tired to go the Toronto International Film Festival Party. I go to this every year. It’s a lovely event in an apartment off the Croisette, with good home cooked food and lots of wine. It is a good chance to hang out with all the Canadians who are covering the event and trade gossip and movie reviews. This year Roger Ebert and his wife showed up. Mr. Ebert told a fascinating story about Japanese “benti” performers who, in the pre-sound days would act out movies alongside the screen. He recently uncovered a troupe of benti performers in Mexico and hired them to perform at his annual film festival. You could see his enthusiasm as he described their work. Part performance art, part cinema history. I wish I could have seen it.
I must be getting old because I wasn’t the last person to leave the party. I called it quits and checked out the bed at Casa Reel to Real. Tomorrow we start in earnest…
THURSDAY MAY 15, 2003
My day started off with a bang. Literally. I went to an 8:30 am screening of The Matrix Reloaded at the Lumier Theatre. I kept an eye open for Katrina who said she would be there, but the theatre seats 2700 people – the population of the town I grew up in – and somehow I missed her.
I must admit, I didn’t really understand the original Matrix, so it stands to reason that I’m not really in tune with the sequel. I’m not a big fan of science fiction, but I AM a big fan of good looking women who kick butt and blow things up, so I enjoyed Reloaded. After an initial big bang in the opening scene the first hour drags slightly, with long talky sequences involving Oracles, alternate worlds and other things I didn’t really understand. But when it picks up, man look out. There is a wild sequence in which Neo battles hundreds of clones of the evil Mr. Smith and a twenty minute car chase that’ll blow the back of your head off. The little boy that I keep hidden away deep in my subconscious loved that scene.
Then it ends. Suddenly. Abruptly. It’s a cliffhanger that will either drive you to drink, or wet your appetite for part three of the series.
We have a deadline of 3:30 pm to shoot the entire show, package it and send it back to our editor in Toronto. Trouble was, with the strike and the general lethargy after our long trip we didn’t have anything prepared. All the interviews I had set up from Toronto had been cancelled because some of the talent wasn’t able to get to Cannes, or, by us arriving a day-and-a-half later than we had planned we had missed them.
I called Katrina and she was able to spare an hour between screenings, so we met at the Cadadian Pavillion to shoot the show open and reviews for The Matrix Reloaded and The Barbarian Invasions.
As Katrina left we bumped into Kelly Alexander from the Toronto International Film Festival. She is very knowledgable about the Marched u Film – the market where the business of Cannes happens – so I grab her and do a quick interview about how films are bought and sold.
Next we go into the market. It’s a vast maze of hundreds of cubicles with music blaring out of each one. Everyone here is trying to grab your attention, and spending too much time here wouldn’t be good for your health… sensory overload. We’re here looking for interesting filmmakers to interview to round out the Marche du Film piece. Almost immediately we come across Menahem Golan, who like so many others in the film business got his start working with Roger Corman in 1963. Since then he has produced or directed hundreds of films, discovered talents like Jean Claude Van Damme and Sharon Stone and ran Canon films in the 80s. He now lives in Isreal and still proudly produces low budget action films for the international market. We discuss the Cannes Marche, which he has attended for forty years, and he still displays an incredible love for the business and movie making. “If you make good movies with a beginning, a middle and an end for less than 3 million dollars,” he tells me, “you have to be an idiot to loose money.” He’s a character – part player, part carny sideshow barker. When we first meet I notice that everyone in his booth are wearing t-shirts silk screened with the posters of his movies — titles like Death Game and Speedway Junky – except for one guy. Just before the cameras roll, Mr. Golan barks at the guy, “Where’s your t-shirt? Don’t you have any sense of public relations?”
Just down the aisle from Golan we bumped into one of my favorite people – Lloyd Kaufman of Troma Films. He greets me warmly and thanks me for writing a complimentary review of his latest book, Make Your Own Damn Movie on the Reel to Real website. As usual Lloyd has surrounded himself with chaos — people dressed as the Toxic Avenger and other characters from his films — and is wearing emerald green pants, florescent yellow socks and a rather (for Lloyd, anyway) conservative suit jacket. I make plans to sit down for an on-camera chat later in the day.
I still freaking out because we don’t have quite enough for our first show, and the deadline is quickly approaching. Then, shortly after bumping into Lloyd I see another familiar face – Brian O’Halloran. He’s one of the Kevin Smith ensemble of actors, appearing in Clerks (the goateed guy behind the counter), Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. He’s in Cannes promoting his new film, the Toronto-shot Drop Dead Roses, a comedy about a store that specializes in sending dead roses or “slightly abused candy” to someone you have just broken up with. Funny idea. Again I dragged him over the Canadian Pavillion where my camera guy was waiting. We did a quick interview and discussed the movie, why he chooses to live in New Jersey as opposed to where all the other movie actors live, Los Angeles and his impressions of Cannes. He’s very funny, and you can see the whole thing on the first Reel to Real Cannes show.
We shoot the stand-ups (all the introduction etc) on the beach, and by 3:15 we have a show! Just in time to make the courier… I run over to the American Pavillion to grab some lunch. They have the best food on the grounds, and it’s pretty cheap. I have some gazpacho and a grilled cheese sandwich, before calling the Rogers show Daytime for the first of several live reports I’ll be doing for them this week. I like doing the reports, but just as I started to speak I got some interference on my phone and I couldn’t hear what the hosts, Anthony and Natalie were saying to me. So I just kept talking until they cut me off. Don’t know what it sounded like…
Afterwards I go to a screening of American Splendor, one of the “buzz” films of the festival. It’s an odd mix of documentary and fiction that chronicles the life of American Splendor author Harvey Pekar. You might remember him from his legendary appearances on the Letterman show in the mid-eighties. He was a regular guest until one night when he melted down and verbally attacked Dave and NBC. He wasn’t invited back for almost ten years. This is a strange, audatious movie that doesn’t work all the time, but takes interesting chances and should be seen by people who want something a little different. As Pekar Paul Giamatti (Man in the Moon, Planet of the Apes) does a great job as the sad sack curmudgeon.
I’m very tired after the movie, so I shove some pizza in my face and go home to bed. On Friday I have to set up interviews for the rest of the trip…
FRIDAY MAY 16, 2003
Today starts off slowly. With no appointments first thing in the morning I actually have time to have breakfast at Casa Reel to Real. When I get up our cameraman Frank has already assembled breakfast – fruit, juice, pastries and get this, he even pre-peeled the banana. If he wasn’t such a good cameraman I would hire him as my cabana boy. (I would, however, be hestitant to let him shop for us again. On the first day we picked up some groceries, and put him in charge of getting some cold cuts. Instead of buying some prepackaged meats, he decided to order hand sliced ham in his very limited French. Instead of a few slices to last us a couple of days, we ended up with enough ham to feed everyone in our apartment building for the rest of the Festival. In all about $30 USD worth of thinly sliced jambon…)
Now I have to make the rounds of the publicists. I should have done this days ago, but because of the strike everything has been delayed. At the first place I go I book interviews for the Animatrix, a collection of several animated short films, detailing the backstory of the “Matrix” universe, and the original war between man and machines which led to the creation of the Matrix. I’ve already seen them, and they are very cool, so we’re off to a good start.
I also hear a funny story about how one person got around the total shutdown of all transportation in France on Tuesday and made it to Cannes on time. Sensing there would be delays and trouble in France, this person flew to Spain instead, and then TOOK A CAB from Barcelona to Cannes. One can only imagine how much that cost.
I continue going from office to office. Many of the publicists are the same form last year, so I already feel I have a pretty good rapport with them. As the day wears on I book interviews with Gus Van Sant for his new movie Elephant, Harvey Pekar and the writers and directors of American Splendor, the director and cast of a quirky Norweigan movie called Kitchen Stories and the cast of a British film called The Mother, directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill and Changing Lanes).
I also book several interviews that fall into the “just for me” category. I’m a pop culture junky, so given the chance to interview Cassandra Peterson AKA Elvira and Jerry Springer is an opportunity too good to pass up. Peterson is here to promote her self financed film Elvira’s Haunted Hills (!) and Springer is making his acting debut as a sleazy television producer in Citizen Verdict with Armand Assante and Roy Scheider. Too good to pass up. Then I book Jean Claude Van Damme. It’s the cult figure trifecta. My day is looking up.
To cap a pretty good day of scrounging for interviews I book a spot on the red carpet for a retrospective screening of the 1956 film Giant. Dame Elizabeth Taylor will be in attendance and I’m told I’ll have a good shot at speaking to hear. Next Wednesday is going to be an interesting day with Gus Van Sant, Jerry Springer and Liz Taylor on the docket…
I bump into Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson and have a brief off-camera chat. She’s lovely. Very nice and very funny. I think the interview will be a blast.
I hook up with Katrina and take in a 7:30 pm screening of The Mother. Elvis Mitchell (the coolest name in journalism) from the New York Times is there, so we figure we’ve hit on one of the hot movies of the festival. We were right. The Mother is a subtlily humorous piece about an older woman who falls for her daughter’s boyfriend. It’s a study of dysfunctional families, but without all the psycho babble. Great performances from Anne Reid as the Mother and Daniel Craig as her younger lover. It’s a sometimes shocking, sometimes heart wrenching story. It’s the best thing I’ve seen since I’ve been here.
We grab a bite to eat after the movie and head over to the Petite Majestic, an open air frequented by journalists during the festival. It is packed, as it is most nights with people standing on the streets and sidewalks. Everytime a car comes along the sea of people part to let the traffic through, then move right back into the street. Meeet up with Lloyd Kaufman, who introduces me to one of his newest interns, a guy named Daniel from Los Angeles. Daniel won the chance to hang out with the Troma crew in Cannes by winning the top spot of the Comedy Central quiz show Beat the Geeks. It’s an incredibly tough show to win, but Daniel tells me he had a leg up because he used to write trivia for a website.
We stay for an hour or so, until the beer kegs are drained dry… Home by 1:30 am and in bed seconds later…
SATURDAY MAY 17, 2003
I’ve seen many strange things in my travels. Today I found a new thing to add to the list of “things I never thought I’d see on the street” – CAT JUGGLING! Before anyone gets upset and reports me to PETA I should add that no cats were harmed in the making of this on-line diary. The juggler, dressed like seventeenth century royalty had two cats and a table of stuffed animals. As he held out his outstretched arms the cats would kind of dance on him, pausing every now and again to stand on their haunches or catch a stuffed ball thrown at them by an audience member. I’ve always had cats and have never been able to train them to do anything except sleep and take frequent naps, so I was rather impressed by this amusing, but deeply weird display.
From there, with visions of glissading cats dancing in my head I headed off to the Garden Terrace of the Grand Hotel. It’s a lovely, quiet open-air restaurant with lots of green space and shade, which is remarkable because it is located on the Croisette. I was set to interview the cast of Kitchen Stories, a quirky Norwegian film about Swedish scientists who studied the movements of housewives in order to design more ergonomically efficient kitchens. First up was the director with the unlikely name of Bent Hamer. He spoke English very well and when I asked him if he enjoyed being interviewed (he was just beginning his day, in all he’d do 40 – 50 interview today) he cryptically said, “I’d rather be interviewed than not be interviewed,” which I guess means that he was pleased that so many people wanted to discuss his movie with him.
Next were the two leads, Tomas Nortrom and Joachim Calmeyer. They are both veterans of the Norwegian stage and screen and were engaging, funny men to speak with. Joachim was recently made a member of the Knights of Odin, one of Norway’s highest honors. They smoked cigarettes and drank strong coffee while joking their way through the interview.
It is very warm but slightly overcast today, so it is the perfect weather for running around and finalizing some of the details for the next couple of shows. Spent the afternoon tracking down stories and in the process got a sunburn that later earned me the nickname “Lobster Boy.”
Took a detour into the Marche to speak to Lloyd Kaufman. He wasn’t in, but I did stumble across some unusual movies that people are trying to sell here. From Israel comes “Wisdom of the Pretzel,” “I’m Tired of Killing Your Lovers” is a new one from Greece, while the French / Italian co-production of “It’s Easier For A Camel” made me laugh. The plot synopsis for the Japanese film “Bright Future” stopped me dead in my tracks: “The enigmatic Mamoru lives alone with his poisonous but hauntingly luminous jellyfish…” That’s a must see. I think, however, that I’ll take a pass on Nursie – apparently she’s “losing her patients…” Funny tagline, but terrible poster. I’ll take a pass.
At 5:30 I line up for Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant,” and in doing so learned a nasty lesson about the press passes. I have a “carte rouge” pass, which means that it is pink, but with no yellow dot. I have had this pass for the past three years and have never had a problem gaining access to any event or screening — until today. I line up inside the Palais building with a group of other journalists, all of who had the pink, pink with a yellow dot, or white passes (there are other passes – blue, grey and orange – which are handed out to technicians and photographers and do not allow access to screenings). I wait for half and hour or so before the line starts to move. I flash my pass at the guy at the door and am turned away. “Blue carpet,” he says. “I don’t understand,” I say. “Blue carpet,” he says again, as though saying it twice in a slightly louder voice will help me decipher what he means. Eventually after some back and forth I begin to understand that I have to go outside and re-line-up on the blue carpet. The people with the yellow dots and white passes smirk at me as they go by… you see anyone with a white pass (Roger Ebert, Elvis Mitchell other VIPs) has total freedom to do whatever they like. I think they can even run for President of France if they like… Anyway, I go outside and it is chaos. There are hundreds of people lined up in behind barricades that snake around and around like a giant maze. At this point I want to give up, go up stairs punch the security guard and get on the next flight back to Toronto, but since I’m a reasonable man I get in line. I get pushed, have smoke blown in my face and soak up more and more sun until I finally make my way up the stairs to the theatre. On the way I pass the guy who kicked me out before. I have to control myself, because I don’t want to get banned from the festival… When I get to the theatre I get the last seat in the last row of the balcony. This movie better be good.
“Elephant” was worth the trouble it took for me to see it. I don’t want to give too much away because I think this movie should be seen with as few preconceptions as possible, but I will tell you it is set in a high school and involves a Columbine-like shooting. The sudden ending of the film (after a long, slow start) shocked people, but the reaction was generally very good. I can’t wait to interview the director, Gus Van Sant on Wednesday.
On my way to an Alliance Atlantic party check out a Ewan McGreggor photo-op. These are photo calls open to any journalists attending the festival and basically what happens is the stars stand in one spot and dozens of photographers yell their names, trying to get them to look at the camera. The competition among the photographers is intense, and I have seen fist fights break out when one guy thinks another guy has gotten a better picture. This one was a little more exciting than usual. No fights, but Ewan drove up on a motorcycle and spun his wheels, filling the whole area with smoke. When the fog cleared he was posed perfectly astride his motorcycle… At the party I saw Randy Quaid (who was wearing very dark shades, despite it being midnight) and spoke to Troy Garrity, who is Jane Fonda’s son and is starring in “Milwaukee, Minnesota” with Quaid.
When that party broke up a bunch of us went to the Petite Majestic and stayed out a little too late. It was fun, but seriously overcrowded. Got home far too late.
SUNDAY MAY 18, 2003
Up early despite being out late the night before. As I’m getting ready to leave the phone rings — the first interview of the day has been cancelled. Apparently the interviewee was out late as well… We reschedule, and I use the time to grab something to eat at the American Pavilion. I had the Cobb Salad wrap, and it made me happy. So happy, in fact, that I lost track of the time and was a couple of minutes late for my next interviews.
The afternoon is jam packed, and my late arrival for this interview means there will be a domino effect, and I’ll likely be behind schedule all day, with my carefully planned timetable falling to pieces.
In fact, I can feel my schedule crumbling into dust and blowing away as we start the first of two interviews for the film “American Splendor” twenty minutes late. I have two camera crews here, and on days like this when we have back-to-back interviews in different locations, I send one to location A while the other is setting up at location B. When I am done at A he tears down while I run to B and we flip flops crews all day. It’s a good plan when the timing works out, but I have a feeling the camera guys are going to be doing a lot of waiting around today.
Bob Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman are the writers and directors of “American Splendor.” It’s a really audacious film that blurs the line between fact and fiction while telling the true-to-life story of comic book character (and real guy) Harvey Pekar. We had to cut this one a little short because of time considerations, but we did discuss how the real-life Harvey likes to break rules, and it was that attitude that helped form the unusual structure of the film.
Next was Harvey and his wife Joyce Babner. Hilarious. Despite being a cult figure with an award winning comic book based on his life, many appearances on the David Letterman show, and a stage show and a movie based on him, Harvey always kept a full time job as a file clerk in a hospital. He just recently retired and Joyce tells me that she hopes the movie will attract enough attention for Harvey so he gets some more freelance work and keeps busy and out of her hair. Apparently he doesn’t know what to do with himself now that he is retired. Before the cameras rolled I asked about how they were enjoying Cannes. Joyce told me the best thing about being there was that their undergarments came back from the cleaners starched and “hermetically sealed in plastic.” She was very impressed by that. Harvey seemed kind of indifferent to the attention of having a major motion picture based on your life might bring. He doesn’t think he’s a celebrity, and just hopes that he can make enough off this movie to pay for his daughter’s education.
From there I ran to the Resideal Gardens around the corner to do another series of interviews for the film The Mother. I was a bit late, but my camera guy was there and ready to go so we made up a few minutes on my decaying schedule. The first pair I spoke to was Daniel Craig and Anne Reid. They play lovers in the film, with a huge age difference. She’s a grandmother; he’s her daughter’s boyfriend. Daniel told me he was feeling a little rough from the night before, but was in good spirits because the film had been received so well at the Director’s Fortnight screening. Anne was lovely, with a slightly bewildered air about her, like she had never done publicity before. The interview was very spontaneous and both were very funny. Next up was the pairing of writer Hanif Kureshi (The Buddah of Suburbia and My Beautiful Launderette) and director Roger Michell (Changing Lanes, Notting Hill). These men have worked together several times and have known one another for a very long time. Unfortunately I can’t repeat most of the interview here, but suffice to say we are trying to figure out a way to air it on Reel to Real so the bleeps don’t over power the interview. Hanif remarked at one point that he might possibly have intimate knowledge of Michell’s wife. Michell pretended to be outraged and said, “You’re telling me this on Canadian television! I have to text message my wife right now,” and pretended to storm off set.
From there we hurried to the rooftop of the Savoy Hotel to interview the Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme. He’s in town promoting a movie that hasn’t been shot yet, but should start filming in August in Montreal. We positioned him by the pool overlooking the beach and the Carlton Hotel. Nice shot. To see everything in the background though, we would have to stand. He wasn’t thrilled at the idea because I towered over him, but agreed to do it anyway. Then he complained that the camera man was wearing a white shirt which he found distracting. I’m not sure if he was joking or not. Then he pretended to kick the camera man in the stomach. Again, I’m not sure if was kidding or not. We finally started the interview. My first question was about how he learned to speak English by watching The Flintstones. Ten weird, rambling minutes later when I was able to ask another question I was so shell-shocked I could barely think of anything else to ask, but managed to get a useable answer out of him about the role the Cannes Film Festival has played in his career.
After it was back to Casa Reel to Real to plan the next couple of shows while the guys logged the tapes we had shot over the last few days. We grabbed a pizza (Mexican pizza with fist-sized chunks of chicken on it) for diner on the way to Telefilm’s party on the beach. I knew we were at the right place when I walked down the stairs and saw a giant stuffed moose — only in Canada. Spent the party mingling, and talked to a number of people, including the managing editor of the greatest website in the world IMDB.com, while cramming as many of their delicious prawns into my face as I could.
It feels like I have been up for days… time for bed.
MONDAY MAY 19, 2003
Up early to shoot the stand-ups for the second of the shows we’re doing from here. We’ve arranged to shoot them on the Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machine’s promotional set in front of the Carlton hotel. Arnold Schwarzenegger did a photo-op there the other day and it is pretty cool. They have the fully operational robots, fake Arnolds and the Terminatrix statue. The nice people at Columbia also give Arnold’s jacket and gloves form the movie to wear while I am shooting. Sounds like a great idea, but the jacket weighs about 30 pounds, and while it is ventilated with bullet holes, it is still really, really super hot. Quite a crowd gathers while we shoot. They’re not there to see me, everyone is checking out the robot, which kind of looks like a streamlined tank with a face. Oh, it also comes equipped with machines guns that are pointed at me while I am taping the intros for the show. I wear the jacket, hoping to sweat off a few pounds…
Next we are off to the Savoy Hotel to interview Cassandra Peterson. You may not know her by that name, but you most certainly are familiar with her alter-ego, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. For twenty years she has worn the black wig, flimsy dresses and hosted her own television show; appeared on “The Simpsons;” sold a lot of merchandise, including pinball and slot machines; pitched for Coors Lite and appeared in two movies. She’s in Cannes promoting her second film, the self-financed “Elvira’s Haunted Hills.”
She was great. We chatted for quite a while as the camera man got everything into place and she is very funny, very nice and very normal. She tells me she has been able to maintain a normal life because people don’t know her, they only know Elvira. It’s the best of both worlds. She gets to be famous, but not get bothered at the grocery store. We had a grand time talking… you’ll see that interview on the second Reel to Real show from Cannes.
From there wee ran to the Canadian Pavilion to meet Katrina to shoot some reviews. She only had an hour to spare between movies so we had to be quick. She’s a trooper. Despite seeing four movies a day — and writing about each one of them — she’s still making time to shoot with us. I appreciate it, as I couldn’t do this alone. We shoot on the beach, and discuss “Elephant,” “The Mother” and “Dogville.”
When she runs off to a screening I stay at the Canadian Pavilion for a press conference and grab a few interviews with Canadian directors Bernard Emond (20 h 17, Rue Darling) and Jean-Francois Pouliot, whose first feature film, Le Grande Seduction is closing the Director’s Fortnight.
At 9 pm we are invited to a party at The Cat Club. I’ve never heard of the place, but we decide to check it our anyway. The club itself is very cool, and quite packed. Should be a good party, except that I don’t think the owners of the club were ready for how many people were going to show up. There was a constant line-up at the bar as the ONE bartender tried to get drinks for the 300 or so people in attendance. And you know when the drinks are free people can get demanding. Then they ran out of beer just half an hour after the party began. We left before the crowd turned ugly.
Troma kingpin Lloyd Kaufman called and invited me to join him for a drink at the Carlton Terrace. I find my over there, and as usual, Lloyd is surrounded by Tromettes (the young women who follow Lloyd the world over) and an array of interesting people, including the English actor Max Ryan who plays Dante in the up-coming “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” One of the Tromettes was wearing very dark sunglasses, even though it was quite late at night. When I asked why she said, “I got kicked out of here earlier and I don’t want them to recognize me.” I think the revealing outfit and the pink hair might give it away… We also meet a man who comes over to ask Lloyd if he would put him in the movies. He is six feet tall, around sixty years of age and kind of looks like an aging matinee idol. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s also crazy? Harmless crazy, but crazy nonetheless. He talks everyone’s ear off, and refuses to leave, even though no one is paying any attention to him, and Lloyd is calling him Frederico Fellini. At one point he asks what I do for a living. I tell him that I review movies and interview movie stars. “Perhaps then, you have met the love of my life,” he says with a flourish. “Michele Pfeiffer.” I tell him I haven’t, but that doesn’t stop him from asking me a dozen questions about her.
When it starts to rain, I take that as my cue to leave. I’m sorry to stick Lloyd and the Tromettes with the Frederico Fellini wanabe, but it was time to go. As I was leaving Lloyd pulled out the little digital camera he takes everywhere with him and go some shots of our new friend. “I think you’re about to miss a great Troma moment,” he said.
TUESDAY MAY 20, 2003
We finally get a day to sleep in. I thought the crew were about to mutiny if I didn’t ease up on the early mornings so I haven’t scheduled anything until one o’clock. What I haven’t told them is that while they are sleeping in, I’m going to be booking more interviews to keep them busy right until the end of the trip. While they sawed logs, I booked the cast of the Denys Arcand film “The Barbarian Invasions.” Denys doesn’t want to do any television interviews and the rumor is that he was so bothered by the bad reviews his last film, “Stardom,” received that he isn’t going to do interviews. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know.
First up today is Dale Heslip, a Toronto filmmaker who has brought his short film “The Truth About Head” to the festival. I recognize him, but can’t place his face. He is a commercial and video director, so it is unlikely that I would have interviewed him before. Before we start the interview he asks me if I used to work at Southern Accent Restaurant in Toronto. I tell I did, many years ago and he tells me he used to be a regular there. Good, that’s one mystery solved.
We discuss the film, which is a surreal 12 minute short about Ed, a man without a body. He has a body surgically attached only to discover he was happier before. It’s an interesting, funny bit of work, which reminded me Tim Burton’s “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” It has a timeless quality about it, with one foot in reality and the other dangling somewhere over the Twilight Zone. Dale tells me he’s using this short as a calling card to try and get a gig directing a feature.
We pack up and move to the Savoy Hotel rooftop to speak to Armand Assante, who is here promoting “Citizen Verdict,” a film co-starring Jerry Springer. I ask him about his character in the film and get a fairly standard answer. I sense that maybe even he’s a little bored. He’s been answering questions all day, and I think he might be on auto-pilot, so I decide to change things up. We discuss the anti-landmine movement, a cause he is very involved in. and a documentary called “Blind Dragon” about the global landmine crisis that he is trying to get off the ground. You could see him get more interested, and by the end of the interview he was very chatty. After it was done he congratulated me on the interview, gave me his home address and asked if I would send a copy of it to him.
Next stop was the Variety Magazine Village, a compound set up on the Croisette for journalists to take a break and have a drink or a bite to eat. We’re here to interview Variety Managing Editor Tim Grey about how to survive the Cannes Film Festival. He turns out to be a funny guy who describes not only the best drinks, massages, and restaurants in the city, but also where all the best restrooms are. He described three different kinds: The Magic Toilet which “with just a wave of the hand over an electronic eye, the toilet seat lowers, complete with a lining of fresh paper.” Next was The Spin Cycle: “Push the button and the toilet seat does a 360 degree rotation, and what emerges is a seat with a clean plastic lining.” I was so excited the first time I saw this one I made everyone I was with come to the bathroom and check it out. The third kind was the Objet d’Art: “This is a reminder that lavatories are not only about technology, but about aesthetics.” There is a restaurant in town called L’Athenee which has hand-painted toilet seats. Grey says the restaurant boasts “great Greek food, a charming staff and a beautiful commode.”
It’s a beautiful day, so we take the chance to shoot a piece that will eventually be called “A Day in the Life of the Festival.” The camera guys followed me through the crowds on the Croisette over to the famous red carpet, into the Palais building to the media lounge and back out through to the International Village. It’s a quick tour of Festival grounds, and what goes on behind the scenes.
We next poked our heads into the Ontario at Cannes party at the Grey d”Albion beach. Nice party, but as with most of these events, if you aren’t situated right by the kitchen door you don’t get a chance to eat. Katrina and I bolt and grab a quick bite before seeing a 7:30 movie – my first of the day, her third.
The Fog of War is documentarian Errol Morris’ film about Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, who subsequently became president of the World Bank. It combines an interview with Mr. McNamara discussing some of the tragedies and glories of the 20th Century, archival footage, documents, and an original score by Philip Glass.
McNamara is a fascinating character who has walked the corridors of power his entire life, and has the insight to be able to look back at his long career (he’s 85 years-old now) and reflect. Twice during the movie he says that decisions he made in his military career could have been considered war crimes, and makes the point that some of these decisions may have been the result of bad information. “Belief and seeing are often wrong,” he says. The film is basically one long interview with him, broken up with archival footage, and it is interesting to note that at one point he says, “Answer the question you wished had been asked to you,” not the question you were asked. I think it would have been a challenge to interview him, but Morris manages nicely.
I am very far behind in my clerical work for this trip, so I spend the next couple of hours after the movie returning e-mails, up-dating the on-line diary and printing out schedules before meeting a large group of Canadians at one of the large hotels for a nightcap. I had a nice time, which is good because I don’t think I’ll ever go back there. You hear many stories about how expensive Cannes is. I have been lucky, and haven’t ever been burned too badly. Until last night. Two Heinekens cost 20E, which is about $30 US. I like Heineken, but not that much.
Off to bed…
WEDNESDAY MAY 21, 2003
I really, really hate having technical difficulties when we are on the road. Today we had two early interviews and had problems at both of them. First up was Jerry Springer… yes, that Jerry Springer. He’s in Cannes to promote a new movie called “Citizen Verdict,” in which he plays a sleazy television producer. I’m not going to make the obvious jokes here. He turned out to be a nice guy – very jet lagged – not at all what you would imagine. He’s thoughtful, insightful and has a good sense of humor. He was very tired, having flown in from the States the night before, hosted a party after his screening and now was up early to talk to the press. We were speaking to him on the rooftop of the Savoy Hotel with the sun blazing down and absolutely no breeze. It must have been 1,000,000 degrees, and Jerry was wearing a black suit.
We position him where we want him to be, wire him up with a microphone and… nothing. There’s no sound. It’s super hot, he sweating and we can’t get it together to have equipment that works. It only takes a couple of minutes to discover the problem, but it was embarrassing.
Next was Gus Van Sant who was scheduled to discuss his experimental new film Elephant with me. We set up on the Noga Hotel Beach in a very hip restaurant called Studio 5. The latest model BMW is parked kin the middle of the restaurant, and I take a few minutes to sit inside and play with the high tech radio. A young woman asks me if I would like to arrange a test drive. I have to decline because I don’t have a drivers license, but I arrange for one of the camera guys to take it for a spin. Van Sant arrives and we begin the interview. No audio problems this time, but he is coughing constantly. The first couple of answers probably won’t be usable because of his rasp. We get him some tea and continue the interview. The second bit of the interview is going much better until I hear a strange clicking sound behind me from the general direction of the camera man. I ignore it and continue on with the questions. I ask a long question based on a quote I had read from Ken Kesey. Kesey said: “When people go see a movie by, let’s say, Gus Van Sant they’re doing it not just to be entertained; they’re doing it because they want to become better warriors.” I was curious how he would react, and we got a very articulate, interesting answer that I’m sure would make great television… except that the clicking sound I heard behind me earlier in the interview was the sound of a camera breaking down. We didn’t get the best answer of the interview. I’m not happy, so I take a little walk to shake off the evil mood I’m now in.
Now for the glamorous part of the job. I sit at the computer for the next three hours e-mailing scripts to our editor in Toronto and researching tomorrow’s interviews.
At 4 o’clock I meet the crew at the Olympia theatre just off the main drag. It is a smaller theatre that is not part of the festival per se, but often distributors rent the place to showcase movies they are trying to sell. Today there is a screening of Giant, the 1956 film starring Rock Hudson, James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor. We have been invited to join the scrum on the red carpet, and try and grab interviews with the celebrities who will be attending. We don’t normally cover events like this, but I am told that Liz herself will be speaking to the press, and I don’t want to miss the chance to speak to a film legend.
We line up at four pm and are crammed into a small fenced-in area on the left side of the red carpet. The plan is that Elizabeth will walk up one side, stopping every few feet and chatting, then continue down the other side. Everyone should get a chance to grab and interview. She will, however, be quite late. The film starts at six pm, and we are told not to expect her until at least 5:30 or 5:45. These things never go as planned, and I’m fairly convinced that we won’t get to speak with her, but I’m willing to wait in the sun, pressed up against other reporters on the off chance that we can get her.
At 5:05 a black limo pulls up and Liz gets out. She’s on time. People are stunned. She’s never on time for anything. I later hear from a publicist that they told her the event was at 2 pm. By telling her the call time was three hours earlier than it actually was they figured they could get her to the appearance on time. In her mind she was arriving fashionably late – three hours late.
The photographers go crazy. “Leez! Leez!,” they’re yelling. There is a push forward as she stops to pose for photos. He’s wearing Fort Knox – enough jewels to pay the debt of several small countries, but look frail. She’s escorted by two men, one on each arm who usher her along. She stops at the reporter next to me. That probably means I won’t et her, as I’m sure they’ll try and move through the line fairly quickly.
But no! She stops in front of me. I ask her one question. Then another and another after that. I actually get her attention for a few minutes. I’M THE KING OF CANNES!
After I speak to her the rush her along to one more reporter, then hustle her inside. They missed one whole of side of the red carpet, including the reporter from Entertainment Tonight. For once, I think to myself, I get an interview that not even ET could get. A few minutes later a car pulls up to the front door of the theatre and Liz is helped inside. We hear later that she isn’t up to staying and had to be taken back to her hotel. As the car was pulling out I heard the woman from ET desperately yelling, “Hey Liz! Got a minute of ET!!!!”
After the red carpet we go down to the docks and shoot the tops and tails for the third Cannes show in front of the ocean and the huge yachts. Some of these things ae so large they have helicopter ports on them. One of them actually had two spots for helicopters to land… unreal. I heard that it costs $50,000 US to fill one of these up with gas.
We have a bite to eat and listen to a live jazz band before heading back to Casa Reel to Real to get ready for Thursday. I have many notes to read. It’s the last full day we’re here, and of course it’s also the busiest.
THURSDAY MAY 22, 2003
I’m up and out of Casa Reel to Real before anyone on the crew has even thought about waking up. While they lay dreaming in their beds I’ll be interviewing documentarian Errol Morris, director of “Fog of War” at the Carlton Hotel. Roger Ebert called him “a magician, and as great a filmmaker as Hitchcock or Fellini.” He has developed a new camera called the “Interrotron” which is basically a modified teleprompter which allows Morris to project his image on a monitor while looking directly at the camera, which allows both Morris and audience to achieve eye contact with the subject.
We discuss this new technology and the difference it makes to the viewer’s perception of the subject. Mr. Morris is a fascinating guy, but speaks v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. I had lots to ask him, but at the rate he was speaking we ran out of time before I had asked half my questions. I hope to have the chance to speak to him again at the Toronto Film Festival.
It was at this interview that I really noticed the difference between British and American publicists. I hadn’t met the British publicist who was looking after Mr. Morris. She came up to me and pleasantly asked, “Could you remind me of your name?” Whereas the Americans are more likely to stare you down and bark, “Who are you?”
From there I met the crew at the Majestic Beach to interview George Stevens Jr. – son of “Giant” director George Stevens. I had spoken to him briefly the night before on the red carpet, but this was my chance to have a full length chat. We discusses his father, and his meticulous casting process. He was so fussy about casting, he would actually cast the personally cast the animals in his films. We also discussed James Dean, who died when his Porsche was blindsided by another car after leaving the “Giant” set. Stevens Jr. – who was close to Dean – told me how his father had forbidden Dean to drive during the shooting of the film in case he hurt himself in a crash. When Dean told the elder Stevens that he was going to race his Porsche the director made him promise he would ship the car on a flatbed to the race. Dean promised he would, but changed his mind at the last moment. When the news filtered back to the set of “Giant” Stevens Jr. says everyone was “terribly, terribly shaken.”
Since we are leaving tomorrow I have a few odds and ends to tie up – including getting caught up with this on-line diary. While at the press lounge I hear about the Vincent Gallo press conference for “The Brown Bunny.” Nobody that I have spoken to enjoyed this film, and I read today that, so far, it is the lowest rated film ever by a Cannes jury. Anyway, there was a press conference yesterday for the film, which Gallo directed, that sounded pretty entertaining. He told the gathered reporters that he had fired Winona Ryder because “she takes tablets which seem to have a bad impact on her behavior,” and said Kirsten Dunst had “a lunatic nasty woman as an agent.” The press conference sounds more entertaining than the movie…
The site of our next interview probably offers the best view I have seen of the city of Cannes – too bad it’s so windy we can’t take advantage of it. We’re on top of the Grand Hotel (home of the $15 Heineken) with a view of the ocean, the yachts and the beautiful old hotels of the Croisette.
We’re hear to speak to Time Magazine film critic Richard Schickle, who has just directed the documentary “Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin,” and Chaplin’s daughter Geraldine. Schickle is passionate about Chaplin’s films, although he will admit that for most of his life he preferred Abbott and Costello. He tells me he hopes this documentary, and the recently digitally remastered versions of Chaplin’s films will make people “turn off the rock music” and pay attention to these classic films.
He’s also kind of a crusty guy. When a Brazilian crew makes a ruckus next to us he scolds them, loudly telling them to keep it down. He took the words right out of my mouth…
Next was Geraldine Chaplin. This woman has lived a life that I can’t even imagine. I ask her about the challenges and benefits of being the daughter of arguably the world’s most famous man – certainly the most widely recognizable pop culture figure next to Mickey Mouse – and she smiled broadly and answered my question with a question. “What could be wrong with having a father that everybody knew and loved?”
Our next set of interviews is to be the last of the trip, and have been the biggest problem to arrange. Every year it seems that the most difficult interviews to set up are those with Canadians. This year the scheduling of the interviews for the Denys Arcand film “The Barbarian Invasions” has been nothing but trouble. The European publicist wasn’t returning phone calls, and it was frustrating not only for me, but for many of the other Canadians I spoke to. Finally the other day I managed to book interviews with the film’s three leads. Great. Well, not so great. I arrive at the location to find out that one of the interviews was cancelled, one was never scheduled in the first place and the third was delayed. Even though we can gone a fair bit of trouble to arrange the interviews I felt that it just wasn’t worth it. The camera guys wanted to catch some rays before our long trip home tomorrow, and I thought that if they want to make it that hard for us to publicize their film, I just won’t bother. We left.
I’m off to our traditional last night of the festival dinner in just a few minutes. It’s the one night we really treat ourselves and go out and spend some serious money on dinner. Covering the festival was a bit of a grind this year. I saw a t-shirt that read “Life is Short… Cannes Is Long” and it certainly felt long this year. I know that I’m looking forward to going home, but I also know that next year around April I’ll be just as excited about coming back to the long line-ups, the rude security guards and the long hours.
SUNDAY MAY 8 — MONDAY MAY 9 — TUESDAY MAY 10, 2005
I am a firm believer in the idea that if you are going somewhere you should already be there by ten pm. If you are just getting on the road at ten then you can be guaranteed of a forty-eight hour day with no sleep, dodgy airport bathrooms and the possibility of humorless German flight attendants. So began Reel to Real’s Cannes Film Festival trip 2005.
Here is my travel itinerary: Get to the airport at eight pm and try to get upgraded to business class. Explain to Canada Customs and then security why we are traveling with bags of electronic equipment. Board the plane and sit in a too-small seat for almost eight hours. Eat twice. Occasionally allow my eyes to dip to an almost closed position while Oceans Eleven and Nurse Betty play on screens around me.
Disembark in Frankfurt—is it the home of the hot dog? I’ll have to check—and wait. And wait. With typical German efficiency the Frankfurt airport is built to move people from one connecting flight to another with great ease, but not to keep them entertained. Bring a book. It is a very dull place. Then get on another airplane to Nice. Sit for an hour before trying to explain to the French Customs agent why we have bags of electronic equipment that we are trying to bring into his country. Once he begrudgingly lets us into the country we try and find a cab big enough for our luggage, bags of television equipment and three large tired men for the drive to Cannes. We find someone who is up for the task—it’s like playing Tetris trying to fit everything in the small car and we’re off. Imagine one of those little cars you see at the circus stuffed with dozens of circus clowns.
By the time we get into the cab I’m tired of sitting, and as much as I like my cameraman Dean, I very quickly grow bored of him almost sitting in my lap for the cramped drive to Cannes. We are going to our rented apartment on Avenue de Lerins, but unfortunately our cab driver feels compelled to take us somewhere else. Where, I’m not sure, and I don’t think he is either. Eventually, just seconds before I think I will go completely mad, we pull up in front of Maison de Reel to Real. We have stayed in the same place for the last few trips, but this time we wanted to try something different. The new place is a little more upscale than our last place—marble floors, a kitchen with a view of the ocean (I can already count ten yachts and the festival hasn’t even started yet), nice rooms and a big balcony overlooking a park. I’m so happy I could weep. I want to lie down on the nice cold marble floor and cool off my burning, tired skin, but decide it might give the wrong impression to my crew.
Even though I am tired to point of hallucinating I hold it together. I’m beginning to feel like feel like Toronto’s Oldest Living Man on vacation. It’s too early to go to sleep. I know if I do I’ll wake up at a strange hour and won’t get accustomed to the time change. I gather the crew and we walk the Croisette—the main drag of Cannes. It’s a long street, but for the purposes of the festival it is really only about a quarter mile centered on the Paliase. That’s where all the action is. For the next two weeks hundreds of movies, dozens of movie stars and more journalists than you could shake a pen at will be converged on this strip. Right now, however, it is relatively calm. Billboards for War of the Worlds, Elizabethtown and something called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang are being erected, staging is being set up and the famous red carpet in front of the grand theatre hasn’t even been laid yet. It’s the calm before the storm, the prelude to madness. As a nice cool ocean breeze blows over me I soak it in. There will be few of these relaxing moments in the days ahead.
Drained, I stagger back to the apartment around 9 pm, unpack and sleep the sleep of the dead.
On Tuesday morning I wake up at 8:45. I feel pretty good, but for an instant I can’t remember where I am, or why I am there. I look around and still can’t put it together. It’s nice, but almost completely unfamiliar to me. I give my head a shake and slowly the synapses start to click and I start to consider the day.
The festival actually starts on Wednesday, so today will be a light day of getting reacquainted with the lay of the land, meeting with whatever publicists are in town, and picking up our press passes and cell phones. All goes smoothly. I get a good press pass. There are different levels of passes ranging from limited access to one that apparently grants you the title of King of Cannes. I get one somewhere in between—the white and pink one.
At the publicity office of DDA at the Majestic Hotel I arrange to go to a photo-call with Paris Hilton and several other things. It is too early to confirm interviews but I leave feeling that we’ll get some good items out of them. Next I meet with a publicist who is repping several interesting foreign films. Are they still considered foreign if I’m in France and the movies are French? Either way I walk into the bar of the Grand Hotel and he is in an animated discussion—in North America we would call it a fight, over here it is the way of doing business—with a journalist who is trying to book interviews, but only wants the stars, not the directors.
“Who do you think makes the movies!!?” shouted the publicist. “I’ll try and do what I can, but I am too aggravated to talk to you now.” When the journalist leaves the publicist tears up his media request form. “He gets nothing, Philistine.”
He has interesting point. Years ago the directors where held in high regard here. They were the engine that drove the Cannes machine. Now, unless you are Woody Allen or David Cronenberg—two of the “name” directors here this year—most of the press doesn’t seem interested. Most of the media here is only interested in starlets and big names. Natalie Portman is a hot item here his year. Hiner Saleem, the Kurdish director of Kilometre Zero, one of the films in competition, is not.
I am intimidated to say the least. I have dealt with many publicists—some irate, some not—but this guy was in a class by himself. We negotiate and I agree to interview several of his directors and he agrees to give me time with one of his stars—the French actress Juliette Binoche. I’m happy, and he’s not yelling, so I assume he’s happy too.
Freaked out from my encounter with publicistzilla I spend the rest of the day working the phones and shooting a couple of stand-ups on the beach which will be used in the first show.
I spend the rest of the day with a friend who has just flown in from Toronto. Her bumpy ride into Cannes makes mine rip look like a luxury cruise on the Queen Elizabeth. She arrived late, without luggage and once she got here a myriad of problems arose—including no press mailbox and a rented cell phone that wouldn’t make outgoing calls. They were little things, but over here it is the little details that kill you. She is in for a living hello of standing in lines pleading with soulless paper pushers who will look at her quizzically when she tries to explain why she needs a press mailbox. Eventually they will give her one, but it will be a long, ugly process ripe with phrases like, “I’m sorry, it’s not possible,” and “You are standing in the wrong line, please move.”
After my visit with her I had back to Maison de Reel to Real, grab a bite to eat and make notes for Wednesday. It all really starts tomorrow and I have just two days to produce and shoot two shows before we have to send our first load of tapes back to Toronto for editing. I’m feeling a little anxious, but I think we can do it.
I went to bed late hoping that I would be tired enough to sleep and not lay there and think about the massive amount of work coming in the days ahead. I was wrong. After twisting and turning for several hours I finally fell into a light anxiety dream ridden sleep.
CANNES YOU HELP ME?
WEDNESDAY MAY 11, 2005
As son as the light hits my eyes I start to feel a sense of dread. I didn’t sleep well on Tuesday night—plagued by anxiety dreams and flop sweat I was up all night. The festival hasn’t even begun and already I am wound up tight as a spring.
My plan was to get up early and work on my notes before going downtown to try and scrounge up some interviews, but since I barely slept, there was no “early” just “later” than I went to bed. When I crawl out of bed I’m too agitated to sit still and write o I get on the road in hopes of catching the publicists before the crowds move in. Everyone is arriving today and as the day wears on it will get hellishly busy everywhere I go.
On my first stop I try to arrange some interviews for the Robert Downey Jr film Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Not doing any Canadian press, I’m told. Then I try and confirm my interview with Atom Egoyan. Still no exact time. I feel the dark clouds of demoralization moving in. Several more negative phone calls later and I’m ready to call it a day, and it is only 9:15 am. I still haven’t booked anything and I beginning to think that the two shows I have to have ready for Friday at noon for shipping aren’t going to be ready.
There is a break in the bad karma weather when a Canadian publicist calls me back regarding an interview for the Midnight Movies, a documentary about 70s cult films. The director, Stuart Samuels is tired, and would prefer not to do any interviews today, but I convince him to meet me at the Canadian Pavilion and do the interview.
Samuels is an interesting guy. He was a film teacher for many years, and in 1983 he wrote a book titled Midnight Movies which profiled three seminal 70s cult films, El Topo, Night of the Living Dead, Pink Flamingos, The Harder They Come, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Eraserhead. Twenty years later he was commissioned to turn the book into a documentary for television but it turned out so well that it got picked up as an Official Selection Out of Competition in Cannes.
He shows up and is passionate about the movies, interesting and well spoken and gives me a terrific interview. When we are done I feel as though the wheels are starting to turn—slowly—but at least there is some motion. From there I head over to the market to check it out and scout any potential interviews. The market is for films that are looking for distributors. There are thousands of films and hundreds of companies represented in this massive convention space. Booth after booth is overflowing with movies that represent the true spirit of Cannes—everything from high art to low trash.
I usually come here with an eye towards locating the most outrageous movies the market has to offer, and today I wasn’t disappointed. Did you know that Wilmer Valderama—Fez on That 70s Show and the man who broke Lindsey Lohan’s heart—is starring in a film called El Muerto? Based on a comic book this film gives us Fez as a zombie mariachi, and looks like it cost about $0.25 to produce. Another real find was Disaster! a “funny as hell spoof of big-budget disaster films” featuring puppets with names like Harry Bottoms and VD Johnson. Possibly the only movie to try and cash-in on last year’s flop Team America. My favorite, however, is Ketchup vs. Mustard: The Ultimate Condiment Showdown. Here’s what the press bumpf says: “Eating competition—two men, two gallons of condiments, one hour to devour them! Doug Sakkman (Ketchup) and James Brown (Mustard) go head to head to see which the superior condiment is! With live color commentary, flashy graphics and lots of ed and yellow vomit, this competition is far more exciting than anything you’d see on ESPN or the Sports Channel.” I’ll just have to take their word on that last claim because I don’t think I’ll ever be seeing this movie.
From there I head over to the screening of Kilometer Zero, the first Kurdish film ever in competition at the Cannes Film Fest and the first movie I will see on this visit. I am interviewing the director, Hiner Saleem later in the week so I have to see the movie tonight. There are three or four lines to get into the theatre—one line for each different kind of pass. I stand in the line with the white and pink passes. I wait for twenty minutes or so before getting to the head of the line. A woman in front of me says, to no one in particular, “I hate Cannes…” I don’t really understand how she can be so negative when it is still the first day, but I nod and smile. Two minutes later when a security has turned me away because I don’t have a mysterious yellow dot on my pass and makes me go to the end of another very long line—with people like me who just have the pink and white pass with no yellow dot—I completely understand that woman’s pain. It made me wish I had gone to Grand and Toy before the festival and bought some yellow stickers…
The movie is interesting. Director Saleem has lived in Paris for the past ten years, but returned to Kurdistan to shoot this movie, and his love of the country shows. The film’s brutal landscapes have been beautifully shot and really help to bring the story to life. For more on the film check out Reel to Real’s review.
The screening ended around nine. It was too late to call any publicists and book any more interviews, so I headed off to the one party that I make sure to attend every year I come to Cannes-the annual TIFF party. It is thrown by the Toronto International Film Festival people and is a fun gathering of all the Canadians who are here. It features stimulating movie talk, great food and plenty of cold beer and wine. I got caught up with many of my colleagues, most of whom I will only see again in passing during the festival.
After some pasta and a spirited discussion with several film critics about the merits of Kilometer Zero I headed back to the apartment and my bed. Gotta get revved up for Thursday.
THURSDAY MAY 12, 2005
What is that ringing? It’s my phone. Not the best way to wake up, but that annoying noise can only mean one thing—someone has finally decided to call me back. I don’t even care who it is. Right about now with a two show deadline staring me in the face I am prepared to book almost anything. Last night as I was falling asleep I even considered called the Punk Rock Holocaust guy who has been handing me DVDs and press releases everyday.
I answer the phone. It’s a publicist that I have been trying to track down for days. For now, I am spared having to cover Punk Rock Holocaust, but I’m not out of the water yet.
I have sent the guys down to set up for a photo opportunity with the creator of Wallace and Gromit. Photo Ops are one of the great traditions here in Cannes. They have been doing them since the 1950s and basically what happens is that beautiful actors and actresses wear very little and pose on the beach while throngs of photographers try and grab a provocative shot. The actors get publicity and the photographers get paid for the photos—everyone walks away happy.
The Wallace and Gromit affair is much more family oriented. They are unveiling a massive 35-foot likeness of Gromit, the famous clay dog from the movies. Nick Park, the creator and director of the series and Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of the big hoo-haws from Dreamworks will be on hand to answer questions. The guys have to go down early to get us a good spot to shoot from, and I’ll join them at 8:30 or so.
I felt badly about sending them ahead, until I arrived at the event. There they were, sitting at a table on the beach, drinking fresh squeezed juices and noshing from the huge breakfast buffet. I wrestle a slice of ham away from one of them and before pushing my way into the scrum to interview Parks and Katzenberg. Parks is a nice fellow who I have interviewed before. One gets the impression that he would much rather be in his studio working with his clay creations than standing on the beach at Cannes in front of a crazed group of international journalists, but he is game and gives nice answers. Katzenberg, however, is a little more used to the spotlight. In that way that only big shot Hollywood producers have, he is controlling the event with arm gestures, nods and a few quietly whispered words to his aides. It’s nothing flashy, but you can feel the power oozing off of him. I get a couple of questions in, stay for the unveiling of the big Gromit, eat another slice of cheese and rush over to the beach behind British Pavilion. I have sent a cameraman over there to cover another photo op—this one with Kiera Chaplin, the grand daughter of legendary comic Charlie Chaplin. When I arrive it is already in full swing. This one amps up the sex appeal—it’s a regular glitzkrieg compared to the Wallace and Gromit event as she is poses and blows kisses to the assembled crowd.
The story here is that she is promoting a movie that isn’t even made yet. It is an updated Lady Godiva story, and the planned stunt today was to have her ride onto the beach on a white stallion. Apparently the Cannes officials got wind of this, and since the film isn’t even a film yet, hey pulled the plug and refused to allow it to happen during the festival. It would have made a nice picture, but Chaplin is very beautiful and I didn’t hear any of the photogs complaining about the lack of a horse.
Inside they staged a brief press conference before I grabbed the soon-to-be movie’s two stars Chaplin and actor Nick “the Big Dollop” Holder. He tells me that he is a sensation in Britain as the result of a series of Hellman’s Mayonaise commercials in which he appears as The Big Dollop. He’s very funny and very British. He sprinkles the interview with jokes about Coventry that I don’t really understand, but he seems to find hilarious. He explains the plot of the as yet unmade movie—the story revolves around the controversial building of an American style gambling Casino on hallowed ground in Coventry, England where the original Lady Godiva famously rode naked through the streets in 1048 in a protest over taxes. Chaos ensues when an Indian tribe of Billionaire Casino operators from Arizona shows up to run the place. He also tells me it will be the funniest British comedy since A Fish Called Wanda.
Next up is Kiera Chaplin—the granddaughter of Oona Chaplin (nee O’Neill), fourth wife of Charles Chaplin and great-granddaughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill. She is lovely, with long blonde hair and a California girl complexion, and a smile that echoes her famous grandfather’s. We chat about the film and she tells me that she won the role when one of the producers saw her photo on the cover of a magazine. Since the film hasn’t even started production yet, our conversation drifts into other topics. She tells me that although she never met her legendary grandfather she is very proud of her last name and her family connection to him. She grew up in Switzerland, but now makes her home in Los Angeles, a city filled with images and statues of her famous relative.
I rush from there to a screening of a film called Crossing the Bridge. I don’t know anything about this movie, other than I have already booked an interview with its director Fatih Akin. I am less than enthusiastic when I arrive and am told it is a film about pop music in Istanbul, but decide to stay. I’m glad I did. I often find music travelogues a little dicey, but this one boasts such great music—everything from traditional Turkish music to hip-hop and gypsy music. Much of this music doesn’t sound like anything I have ever heard before, and as I sit listening, I wonder if people felt this way the first time they heard Jimi Hendrix or John Coltrane. By the end of the screening I’m excited to meet the director.
After the movie I wander the Market searching for a story idea. I don’t find anything I can turn into a story for the show, but I do come across the best poster, so far, in the festival. It is an ad for Saw Two, the sequel to the cheapo horror flick of last year. That one made $100,000,000 worldwide, so it was inevitable that part two would come along sooner rather than later. The poster is really eye catching with the word Saw in black against a white background, and two severed fingers for the “2.”
Today we have to figure out what will be on the first two shows, shoot the intros and extros and package up the tapes to be sent back to Canada. The shooting part is easy—I have recruited Jason Anderson of eye Magazine to do the reviews with me—the trouble is that I don’t think I have enough content for both shows. One interview that I was counting on fell through at the last minute and now I am short one segment.
My camera guys agree to meet me at the Grand Hotel on the Croisette and start shooting. While I am waiting for the whole crew to show up I wander into the bar and see Richard E. Grant sitting at a table in the corner. He’s instantly recognizable from the leading role as an unemployed actor in the chamber comedy Withnail and I and as the two headed executive in How to Get Ahead in Advertising. He was paired with Sandra Bernhard in the megabomb Hudson Hawk and was very funny in L.A. Story and The Player. He also appeared as Dr. Seward in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and played a society gadfly in The Age of Innocence among other roles.
I wonder what he is doing here and if he would like to talk about whatever project he is involved in. I need another segment, and hopefully he needs publicity. It all works out nicely and I get a nice five minute interview with him about a film he wrote and directed, but does not appear in, called Wah-Wah which was filmed in his home country of Swaziland.
Now I have a show!
We quickly shoot the intros and extros on the streets surrounding the Grand Hotel. I nearly get hit by speeding cars and motorcycles several times as we try and do some tricky shots of me crossing the street.
I emerged unscathed and made it on time to the screening of Gus Van Sant’s new film Last Days. It’s gettinga lot of buzz over here because it is Van Sant’s first film since the Palm d’Or winning Elephant of a couple of years ago. I get in, find a good seat and settle in. Twenty minutes into the film I feel like running out of the theatre. Last Days follows the nontraditional, elliptical kind of filmmaking that Van Sant has been experimenting with in his last two films, but takes it to another level in this one. The opening shots of this film show Michael Pitt, the talented young actor from Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Dreamers in a pastoral setting—walking through a forest, swimming in a stream, sitting by a campfire—with virtually no dialogue… for almost twenty minutes. I don’t know whether it is beautiful or just self indulgent, but I’m leaning toward the latter.
The film details—without ever naming—the last days of Kurt Cobain before he committed suicide. One reviewer over here noted that he wished instead of Last Days this would have been only the last hours. It seems a little slow, a little long but is strangely hypnotic. Ultimately though, when you know how it ends—badly for Cobain—some of the drama gets sucked away and replaced with tension as the viewer waits for the guitarist to pull the trigger and end not only his life, but the film. It may not be Van Sant’s best film but it is a movie that will inspire conversation.
Near the end of the movie I can hear my stomach growling and I’m pretty sure that everyone else can as well. I think back and realize that I haven’t eaten since my slices of cheese in the early morning. I find a restaurant; eat a sandwich named after comedian Roberto Begnigni before going back to Maison de Reel to Real and collapsing.
FRIDAY MAY 13, 2005
Up early to make an 8:30 screening of the new Atom Egoyan film Where the Truth Lies. Based on a Rupert Holmes novel in which a female journalist tries to uncover the truth behind the breakup, years earlier, of a celebrated comedy team after the duo found a girl dead in their hotel room. The movie stars Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon as the Martin and Lewisesque comedy team and Alison Lohman as the young writer. Novelist Holmes is also known as the writer and performer of the hit song, Escape/ The Pina Coloda Song.
The theatre, which seats 1900 people, is jammed. I get a seat on an aisle and spend half and hour getting knocked around by people who try and squeeze past, sit for a moment and then decide to move to another seat, so they squeeze by again. It’s annoying, but apparently seat position is very important to these people.
The movie is a departure of sorts for Egoyan, although it contains many of his signature motifs—a search for the truth, obsessive behavior, voyeurism and commodified sexuality, but the form of the story telling is much different than in the past. This is a sumptuous looking murder mystery—sort of like a high brow episode of Murder She Wrote. There are plenty of twists and turns and it will keep you guessing until the end. The reaction in Cannes has been mixed—up and down the scale from enthusiastic to indifferent. Watch Reel to Real to find out what we think.
My first interview of the day is at 11 am with Toby Rose, the co-creator and jury chairman (with his dog Mutley) of The Palm Dog Awards. The prize, for best canine performance in a film, has become a regular feature at the festival as a humorous antidote to the festival’s big prize, Palm d’Or which some call the Palme Bore or Palm Snore.
Last year the coveted prize, voted on by five British and French journalists, went to the bulldogs owned by renowned American wine critic Robert Parker, as seen in the documentary Mondovino. “The winners were two flatulent bulldogs called Edgar and Hoover,” said Rose. “It is very amusing as Parker is the world’s leading nose. Does it have an effect on the sensitivity of his nostrils one wonders?”
The year before the prize had been awarded to the chalk outline of the dog in the Lars Von Trier film Dogville. The award itself is a black leather Palm Dog collar with gold lettering, which Rose tells me is being manufactured as we speak, ready to grace the neck of the lucky winner.
Later I see a movie poster for something called Rakinshka, which has the greatest tag line ever: “What could be more hermetic than a shell, which once opened and before the enigma is solved is already dead!” Clearly the translator needs to be fired.
I grab a bit of food and hen head over to a television satellite station located on the Croisette across from the press office, I’m scheduled to do a live broadcast for my other TV gig, Canada AM. They set up the shot so we get a good look at me, the ocean and the Palaise building, unfortunately that means the midday sun is shining directly in my eyes and while we do the spot—four or five minutes about the hot movies at the festival—I do my best Clint Eastwood impression, squinting to avoid having my corneas burned away by the sun. I wear an earpiece so I can hear what the hosts, Bev Thompson and Seamus O’Regan are saying, and I realize that it is the first time I have heard any news from Canada in days. When you are covering a festival it’s almost like being in a submarine—you feel completely closed off from the rest of the world. The only thing that anyone is talking about is what interviews they are doing, how tired they are or what they have been seeing. Giant lizards could have invaded Canada and I probably wouldn’t have heard about it.
After the satellite the day gets a little more complicated. I have several interviews scheduled back to back, but in different parts of town. It will all work out if everyone is on time, but if just one of them is off schedule then I run the risk of being late for, and possibly losing, the subsequent interviews.
I’m on time for Terence Stamp who is here promoting a film called These Foolish Things. We are shooting the interview in a beautiful restaurant that fronts on to the beach. It is all white with huge—6 foot by 6 foot—pillows, overstuffed sofas and elegant lighting. I could get very comfortable here, but there is no time.
I am told that we are only to talk about that movie, and that Mr. Stamp doesn’t wish to discuss his other films. Often over here journalists will ask only one or two questions about the current film and then try and get quotes and info about the star’s personal life or older movies that they can use after the festival is over in profiles. Publicists, who are paid to get stories published and aired about the current movies, generally frown on this practice. Occasionally though, there isn’t much to talk about regarding the new picture. In this case I haven’t seen the film—it isn’t part of the festival per se, it is in the Market and the filmmakers are trying to find a buyer for it. His is common over here, but it can make it difficult to have a meaningful conversation about a movie that you know little about.
Stamp, however, makes it easy. I tell him that we met once before, in an elevator at The Four Seasons in Toronto. I was drinking a Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks and he commented on how good it smelled and asked what it was. I told him, and he asked if it could be made with soy milk—he doesn’t eat dairy and has written a lactose free cookbook—and I tell him that it could. Today he tells me that he has been drinking them ever since that day.
When I ask him a question about the film, in which he plays the all-knowing butler to a family that is falling apart, he gives me a great answer that mentions William Wyler, the great director of Roman Holiday, Ben-Hur and the film that won Stamp a best actor award in Cannes in 1965, The Collector. This is a great film about a man who kidnaps a woman and holds her hostage just for the pleasure of having her there. It’s creepy and Stamp is terrific. Since he opened the door, as they say on Court TV, I felt it was OK to ask him about Wyler and that film. It made him famous, and brought him awards, he said, but it might have been the worst thing to ever happen to him because after that he was typecast as a heavy.
From that point on we talked generally about his career, the highs and lows in an interview that may have broken the publicists rule, but was one of the most honest and charming chats I have ever had with an actor.
As I am leaving Stamp asks me if I will see Atom Egoyan any time soon. I tell him that I’ll be interviewing the director in the next few days. Stamp said, “Tell him I’m mad at him because he doesn’t use me in any of his films…” We laugh, but as I walked away I can’t help but think how perfect Stamp would have been in the role of Rueben, the shady butler in Where the Truth Lies.
Next up I speak with Julia Taylor-Stanley, the former composer and music arranger—she’s worked with everyone from Meatloaf to Diana Ross—who is now the first time director of These Foolish Things. We discuss the long process of adapting the story from its source material and raising the money to make the film and how she as a newbie was able to gather a cast of heavy weights like Lauren Bacall, Angelica Huston and Terrence Stamp.
The interview goes on a bit long and I am now late for my next one, which is a ten minute walk away at the Grand Hotel. I run over there and meet my second cameraman who is already set up and ready to go. I’m literally panting as I run to the location—it’s hot and I haven’t actually run anywhere since the mid-1980s—only to discover that the interview has been moved by twenty minutes. This is good in the short term—I can catch my breath and have a drink—but bad in the long term as it will throw off the rest of the day.
We have been told that Hineer Saleem, the director of Kilometer Zero and my next interview doesn’t speak English and will be using a translator. Usually that’s fine, but we are shooting on location and only have enough jacks on the camera for two microphones. My techies consult and decide that the best thing to do is put mics on me and the translator and not one on the director since we will not be using his voice when we air the interview. We put a wireless microphone on him, but don’t hook it up. When we start to talk it becomes plain that he is going to answer in English and the translator isn’t going to say a word. I lean in close in hopes that my microphone will pick him up, and we’ll just have to hope for the best.
We talk about the statue of Saddam that is seen through out the movie. The statue is crucial to capturing the right atmosphere about 1980’s Iraq. He spent weeks trying to find a sculptor who would make the statue. He finally found someone, but they had to work in private, hidden in a walled garden to make the giant piece. When a security guard caught a glimpse of the Butcher of Baghdad’s effigy, the statue was confiscated and the sculptor was arrested. Saleem told me he had to spend a full day explaining why he commissioned the statue before the sculptor was released.
Next, at the same location, is the director of Crossing the Bridge, a young filmmaker named Fatih Akin. Born in 1973 in Hamburg to Turkish parents he wrote and directed his first short feature, Sensin – You’re The One! in 1995 which received the Audience Award at the Hamburg International Short Film Festival. He made headlines at Cannes a couple of years ago when it was revealed that the lead actress in his movie Head-On had been a porno actress. I’m short on time so I make a deal with a Russian crew to allow me to go before them in return for shortening my interview time and letting them use my extra minutes. The film is about discovering the wealth of pop music in Istanbul, so I ask if he has ever heard of American folklorist Alan Lomax who recorded hundreds of hours of America’s indigenous music for the Smithsonian. He hasn’t heard of Lomax, but tells me that he isn’t trying to create a historical document with this film, but simply make a film that will expose the world to the great music of Istanbul.
By the time the Russian crew is setting their camera for their interview with Akin I’m already on the run to the next location, the British Pavilion, to chat with the stars of the movie Stoned. It is the story of Brian Jones the doomed founder and guitar player of The Rolling Stones. I saw an ad for the film in The Hollywood Reporter with photos that I thought were old publicity stills of Jones, but actually turned out to be of lead actor Leo Gregory.
Jones was one of the founders of the “sex, drugs and rock and roll” cliché—on one hand a talented and sensitive musician, on the other a lout who got five different women pregnant while spiraling into a drug and alcohol induced haze. By June 1969 Jones had become such a liability that he was fired by the band he helped create. Just weeks later on July 3rd, 1969 Brian was found by his girlfriend Anna Wolen and friend Frank Thourogood dead at the bottom of his own swimming pool. Speculation swirled that the guitarist had been accidentally murdered by Thourogood in an alcohol induced argument but nothing was ever proven. It was also suggested that perhaps he had an asthma attack while swimming. One thing is for sure, Barbiturates were found in his blood, which were prescribed to help Brian sleep, but to this day the real circumstances surrounding his death remain a mystery.
The story of Jones has always fascinated me, so I tracked the publicist for this—it’s not actually part of the festival—and booked the interviews. In person Leo Gregory doesn’t look like Brian Jones—he could maybe pass for his long-lost cousin—but he was chosen for his acting ability and not his looks. We chat about the character and how Jones was a study in dualism—sensitive one moment, abusive and tyrannical the next.
Next I speak with Tuva Novotny who plays girlfriend Anna Wolen in the film and was voted Sweden’s most beautiful woman in Café magazine and Sweden’s sexiest woman by the readers of Slitz. To see Tuva and hear what she has to say, check out the Reel to Real Cannes Specials in May.
The director of Stoned is Stephen Woolley, a first time director, but very experienced producer. Among his credits are films like Backbeat, Scandal, Michael Collins, Interview with a Vampire and The Good Thief. He looks the part of a sixties rock star with long hair tied back in a pony tail and a white linen suit. He tells me that he hired a private investigator to try and get to the bottom of what happened on the fateful night that Jones drowned. We went on to discuss the music in the film, and I mentioned that two of the soundtracks from his films—Backbeat and Scandal—are favorites of mine.
From there I have just a few minutes to make it top a screening of the new Ed Norton film Down in the Valley. I arrive just a couple of minutes before it is scheduled to start and end up sitting in the front row. Not only do I have to sit at a strange angle to see all of the enormous screen, but the stage is only about a foot and a half away so I am forced to tie myself up like a pretzel to sit in the chair. Maybe it was my discomfort, or maybe I was just tired, but this movie, set in the present-day San Fernando Valley, about a delusional man who believes he’s a cowboy and the relationship that he starts with a rebellious young woman seemed to drag on f-o-r-e-v-e-r despite great work from actors Ed Norton, Evan Rachel Wood and David Morse. The filmmakers are looking for a buyer here at the festival, and I hope who ever antes up for it insists that they cut twenty minutes or so of the flab off the story.
Once again I haven’t eaten and now it is quite late. I grab a chocolately bit of goodness from a kiosk on the beach and head over to the party for Where the Truth Lies. We’re covering the red carpet and it will be our only chance to talk to the stars of the film Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth. There is a junket planned for the film, but for some reason Canadian press aren’t invited to participate even though it is a Canadian film. Whatever. I have long since given up trying to figure out how the minds of the people who make up these schedules works. I guess they figure that if we do the interviews and run them on our Cannes shows we won’t be interested when the film is released. I don’t think that is true, but who am I to argue with the evil two headed pubzillas that are running this thing. I’ll make do with the short red carpet interviews and a full length interview I am doing with director Atom Egoyan later in the week.
Colin Firth is first. He is dressed in a tux and seems quite pleased that the film earned a standing ovation at the screening. When I ask Kevin Bacon how it feels to get a standing ovation at Cannes he said, “It feels better than a sitting ovation.” Bacon is a funny guy. Later I read that he was joked with a reporter about Egoyan’s huge vocabulary. After the press conference for Where the Truth Lies he said, “It was like, whew, right over my head. He used like six words I’d never heard before.”
Canadian actress Rachel Blanchard looked beautiful in her turquoise gown, but seemed a little shell shocked by the attention the movie was receiving and Cannes.
By the time we finished our interviews the party was already well under way. I saw Roger Ebert in the buffet line and French superstar Vincent Cassel lurking in the shadows. Overall it was a good party, but it did represent a first for my trip to Cannes—really average food. There was a buffet of dried out pasta, mystery meatballs, chicken skewers and some kind of weird half moon shaped thing that tasted like minced insects wrapped in an onion. The French love their food and I imagine that somewhere Julia Child was rolling over in her grave. Later I hear that the party for Star Wars was also marred by bad food. One reporter wrote, “Next time, the advice for Lucas must be, “Use the forks, Luke,” leaving people’s Hans Solo for wine.”
Home a little too late for my own good…
SATURDAY MAY 14, 2005
The morning comes way to fast. I’m up at 7 am to make it to an 8:30 screening of the new Juliette Binoche film Cache about a family who is terrorized by someone who leaves them anonymous videotapes of their every move. On the walk to the theatre I notice that one of my shoes is squeaking.
On every second step I hear a kind of wheezing sound coming from my foot. Oh no, I think, the small stuff is starting to really get on my nerves.
I’m relieved that while sitting my shoe is quiet. The movie is a front runner for the Palme D’Or and I can se why… but only up to a point. The director, Michael Haneke is a festival favorite and has crafted a film about a family terrorized by anonymously made videotapes about their daily life that reveals the ugly side of humanity that exists in all of us. The film ends rather abruptly and the open ended nature of the final sequence has become a hot topic of discussion here at Cannes. Everyone I talk to has a slightly different idea of what the ending as supposed to mean, and while it makes for a great chat over a drink, the suddenness of the ending left me unsatisfied. Not wanting more, exactly, but wanting something else.
The weather here has been beautiful, but it has been threatening to rain all day today. What starts as a sprinkle soon ends up in a full-on rainstorm as I walk to a photo-cal for George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead. I’m hoping to pick up an interview with Romero, and given the rain I doubt that there will be many people there so my chances should be pretty good.
It is pouring as I walk, and from out of nowhere street vendors appear selling umbrellas. I discovered that the price of the umbrellas was directly linked to the intensity of the downpour. At the height of the storm they cost anywhere from 10-15E, as the rain tapered off the price came down. I arrive at the photo call soaked through, but on time.
I begin to ask the publicist if there is any chance to speak to Mr. Romero. Here’s how it went:
“Hi, I’m with a show called Reel to Real from Can…”
“No,” he said waving his hand in my face.
“You don’t even know what I am asking yet,” I said.
“The answer is still no.”
I look around and notice that only three still photographers and no other TV crews have shown up to the photo call. “You have more talent here than reporters,” I said. “Don’t you want the publicity that an interview could bring?”
Not exactly sure why the guy was so adamant. Clearly he was not doing his job well. There was virtually no mention of Romero or the movie in the daily press and I didn’t see any photos from the event anywhere. Next time, I would suggest that Romero hire a publicist who knows what he is doing.
Later I hear that a 20 minute teaser of Land of the Dead was shown before a screening of the Stuart Samuel’s film Midnight Movies and once it was over all the people connected with the zombie film stood up and left, not bothering to stay for the main feature. That’s really bad manners, but when I met the guy in charge I understood why it happened.
A History of Violence is one of the buzz films at the festival. Directed by David Cronenberg—a festival favorite—word has it that it is his best, and most accessible movie in years.
New Line has arranged what they are calling a “super secret screening” at a theatre a few blocks off the Croistette. I have been sworn to secrecy. Apparently I will have to face a history of violence from them if I tell anyone the details of the screening.
It starts at two, and unfortunately I have an interview scheduled with Michael Pitt of Last Days at 3:20. I can watch enough of the Cronenberg film to do the interview later today, but nonetheless I hate walking out on movies.
I’m not going to write about the movie until I have seen the whole thing—I had to leave at a pivotal moment—but I will say that I didn’t want to leave and considered blowing off the Pitt interview so I could stay until the end.
When I left the theatre I called Pitt’s publicist to see if they were running on schedule. If they were late I was hoping to be able to go back into the theatre and catch the end of the Cronenberg film. No such luck. I’m told that they are running exactly on time. I doubt that this is true. Even the best run press days never run on time. There are always delays and being off sched by twenty minutes or so isn’t uncommon.
I take her word for it and run over to the interview site only to find out that they are not running on time and I’ll have to wait about half an hour—just enough time that I could have caught the end of A History of Violence.
I wait, imagining what I am missing at the theatre until it is my turn to speak to Pitt. He’s not a great interview. A couple of years ago he made the rounds at the Toronto Film Festival mumbling and burping his way through a series of interviews for a movie ironically directed by David Cronenberg’s nephew Aaron Woodley called Rhinoceros Eyes. It’s a good little movie that, for some reason, has not yet been released theatrically.
Pitt remembers me from Toronto and seems a little more responsive than the last time, and didn’t burp once during the interview. He’s an interesting and unusual actor. He resembles Leo DiCaprio, but save for a stint on the teen soap Dawson’s Creek he has never really played off his pretty boy good looks. Indeed he seems to be taking pains to avoid being typecast as a good looking movie star. In Rhinoceros Eyes he wears a mask for a good chunk of the movie and in his latest, Last Days his hair hangs in front of his face, obscuring his handsome mug like a Halloween mask.
In his choice of projects he appears to be courting interesting rather than commercial work. That is certainly the case with Last Days, the fictionalized last moments in the life of Kurt Cobain. There is no story at all in this Gus Van Sant film, just a series of moments strung together that illuminate the troubled character of a rock star just hours away from his end.
We discuss the loose form of the film, and Pitt tells me that they didn’t start with a traditional script, but a list of things that should go into the film.
After Pitt I was scheduled to interview David Cronenberg on the beach by the Canadian Pavilion. Once again there were only limited spots for the Canadian press to speak to this Canadian mainstay—only two outlets were approved for the full cast interviews. I was told I was third on the list, but I may as well have been 303 on the list because at the last minute it was decided that two Canadian spots was enough. Anyway, with the assistance of a very helpful Canadian publicist we were able to get Cronenberg for a few minutes during a reception for Telefilm.
It was interesting to speak to Canada’s Prince of Darkness on a sun-drenched Cote D’Azur beach. The waves, the sand and sun seemed inappropriate for this interview, but hey, I’ll take what I can get. Just as we are about to start a squadron of jet planes fly over head leaving a trail of red, white and blue smoke behind them. Again, this seems a little inappropriate for a Telefilm Canada party.
Cronenberg is always a great interview. Today he had just gotten off the plane from Toronto and even though he was exhausted he was still sharp gracious, thoughtful and much funnier than you would expect from someone who specializes in creeping people out. To see the interview check out the Reel to Real Cannes Specials in May.
With that interview wrapped we’re done with the daylight portion of Saturday. We still have two events to go—a yacht party for The LA Film Festival and a late night red carpet for the film Down in the Valley.
The yacht is a sixty-foot boat moored at the Port of Cannes and it is quite spectacular. We interview the LA Film Festival organizers and then tuck into a buffet of seafood with shrimps the size of my fist and scallops the size of hockey pucks and lamb on the upper deck. Later we discover a third level with a Jacuzzi and a beautiful view of the harbor. Somehow I manage to drink about seventeen gallons of champagne. Edward Norton and Javier Bardem are both on board, but aren’t doing interviews. Instead of speaking to them, I drink more champagne.
We leave the yacht around 11 pm and make our way over to the last stop of the day—the red carpet for Down in the Valley at the Palm Beach Club VIP Room. I have never been here and aren’t quite ready for what happens when I do arrive. There are Ferrari Diablos and Porsches parked everywhere and a throng of well dressed people are pressed up against metal barriers, waiting to be let in. We stroll past the crowd and get set up inside. More champagne. We have to wait about an hour for the talent to arrive and by the time they get there my area on the red carpet is littered with empty champagne flutes, but I am able to hole it together to do the interviews.
Evan Rachel Wood, the young star of 13 and The Upside of Anger arrives first. Her publicists “helpfully” reminds us of the obvious—that it is late, by this time it is after 1 am—and asks us to be brief. Wood is really good in the movie, and I think she could be a superstar. There is something that is very compelling about her and when she is on-screen even if she isn’t the focus of the action your eye still drifts to her. I hope she continues to pick interesting projects. We talk about a difficult scene in the film in which she is swimming with Edward Norton. She tells me that she isn’t a strong swimmer, and was convinced she was going to get bitten by a shark while shooting the scene. It also didn’t help that her director was seasick during while they were shooting.
Ed Norton is next. He is someone who looks like a movie star—charismatic and handsome. He stops at my spot on the red carpet and I tell him that I think Down in the Valley is the third part of a trilogy in which he plays characters who have alter egos. First was Primal Fear, then came Fight Club and now this movie. He responds well, and to hear his answer tune in to Reel to Real.
We finish off with the director David Jacobson. He tells me about work shopping this script at the Sundance Screenwriters Clinic and how that experience helped shape the film. Whew… it’s now over and it is about 1:50.
I try to gather up the crew to make a hasty retreat, but the two cameramen have disappeared. Apparently one of them discovered the other side of the club which was cordoned off. I went to have a look for them and accidentally walked into Sodom and Gomorrah. Cages with Go-Go dancers in them hung from the ceiling. Thousands of people were bumping and grinding to pounding music supplied by a half naked DJ. I take three steps into the club and get two drinks spilled on me. A cloud of cigarette smoke hung in the air, like the morning smog over Los Angeles. This was going to be hopeless.
I try and call one of the guys, hoping that his phone is on vibrate. No luck. I get bumped another hundred times on the way out while women swing on poles around me. I see one of the camera guys and make sure he has keys to the apartment and tell him that I am leaving and will take the camera with me. Then it was like someone turned on a giant vacuum and he was sucked back into the club as I walked out the front door. Outside was pandemonium. Hundreds of people were desperately trying to get in the club that I was trying so desperately to get out of. It was a sea of black cocktail dresses, hair mousse and expensive shoes.
My head was pounding when I hit the fresh air—from the loud music, not the twenty-two gallons of champagne I had finished off—and I was glad to call it a night.
Not so for the two cameramen who went AWOL until 5:30 am.
SUNDAY MAY 15, 2005
I have an interview scheduled for 10 and I’m not sure whether I will have a cameraman to shoot it for me or not. I didn’t hear them come in last night, and when I left the house at 9 neither of them had shown their faces.
I arrive at the Martinez Hotel around 9:30 with no cameraman, but I have time, and I’m sure neither of them wants me hassling them just yet. I’ll give them till 9:45 before I start making phone calls and yelling.
Luckily they show up just as I am dialing their number and preparing to curse them out. I don’t ask a lot of questions about what happened the night before, but they both say, “It was unbelievable,” and tell me unprintable stories about their exploits.
As it turns out I don’t need them just yet—the publicist is providing a camera set up for this interview. The guys look relieved and use the time to graze from the breakfast buffet in the interview suite. After some much needed food and coffee they head out to shoot b-roll while I sit to chat with Michael Haneke the German director of Cache.
I speak in English to an interpreter who translates for the director, who answers in German. It’s an around about way to do an interview, but Cache has been tipped to win the Palme D’Or and Haneke is pumped so the interview comes off with enthusiasm if nothing else.
From there I head over to the Market. I stop at the Thailand booth and pick up a flyer for a horror movie called Rahtree Returns. The flyer caught me eye because it features a full color—and quite graphic—picture of a woman sewing a man’s mouth shut. The tagline for the film reads: “LOVE… JEALOUSY… HATRED… in the mood of horror and humor, are about to begin!” One of the people in the booth sees me pick up the flyer he hands me their promotional item—a needle and thread with a diagram on how to sew someone’s mouth shut.
I continue wandering around and bump into Lloyd Kaufman who in a fit of European glee kisses me on both cheeks. Lloyd runs Troma films and has been coming to Cannes for over twenty years. He gives me a copy of the new 5 DVD set titled Make Your Own Damn Movie! the companion piece to Lloyd’s best selling how-to book, and according to the front cover, a “film school in a box.” I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m sure it is as informative as it is outrageous. We make plans to meet later in the festival for a drink.
From there I find a photo kiosk to develop some of the digital photos I have been taking. These do-it-yourself photo kiosks are everywhere and they are free. You can develop up to ten pictures at a time, and the quality is quite good. I have been using them to print out my souvenir photos, but have noticed that other people are using them for slightly different purposes. A guy next to me is trying to cover the screen as he caresses the touch screen. I catch a peek at one of the photos as it is spit out of the machine, and I see why he is so secretive. Hard core amateur porn—clearly the kind of pictures that you can’t develop at the one hour photo place in your neighborhood.
I pick up one of the several trade papers that are printed daily in Cannes and see the headline Beauty and the Breast. It refers to French actress Sophie Marceau’s wardrobe malfunction of the night before. Apparently one of her breast fell out of her dress on the red carpet for Where the Truth Lies. Over here it wasn’t a scandal, a la the Janet Jackson debacle of last year. No, despite the torrent of photographer’s flashes that were so intense that they could probably seen from space when it happened, it was just seen as an amusing incident.
My next interview was with Atom Egoyan. We weren’t invited on the junket—again an example of Canadian press ignored when it comes time to dole out interviews for a Canadian movie—but Egoyan has graciously agreed to do some interviews on his own time. We are to meet him in his hotel at 6 and will be given some one-on-one time.
When we meet in the lobby I notice that he isn’t wearing his pass. You don’t go anywhere here without your pass around your neck, even if you have one of the films in competition. He runs back upstairs to get it. When he gets back he says that when he was on the jury he had a gold pass that got him priority seating and the check paid at any restaurant in Cannes, and use of any official Cannes Festival cars. His filmmaker’s pass doesn’t have any of those perks, but I do hear that once you get a film in competition you are given a lifetime pass to the festival.
We step outside to do the interview after being told we couldn’t shoot in the lobby. As we are getting the cameras ready I show Egoyan some of the press stuff I had picked up at the Market. One is a very fancy hand silk screened kit for a zombie movie that he is quite fascinated by. I also tell him that Terence Stamp is annoyed with him. When Stamp found out that I was from Toronto he asked if I ever spoke to Atom Egoyan. I told him that I would be seeing the director later in the week. “Well tell him that I’m mad at him because he hasn’t cast me in any of his movies.” Apparently they have a mutual admiration because when I tell Egoyan this he laughs and says, “I have a Terence Stamp fixation.” He then tells me about finding a rare DVD copy of the 1968 Stamp oddity Teorema, a film in which there are only 923 words spoken.
When the camera starts to roll we discuss his film, Where the Truth Lies. I ask him about his decision to use voice over extensively. He says that usually he hates voice overs, and finds it a lazy way of telling a story, but for this project it seemed to work. Watch the full interview on Reel to Real.
That’s it for shooting today, so I head back to the press office and get caught up on e-mails and study the schedule for the next few days until it is time to head to the town of Mougins for the Telefilm Party. They have arranged shuttle busses for everyone, and despite my general anti-shuttle bus attitude I decide to take one rather than try and get a cab. During the festival cabs are as rare as chicken’s teeth. The ride is fairly quick, only about fifteen minutes, and I pass the time eavesdropping on the couple in front of me. Apparently they have just met. He’s older, she’s at least twenty years his junior. He spends the trip asking her questions about herself which she is more than happy to answer. She says things like, “I may not be the most beautiful person in the room, but I have more charisma than anyone I know,” and generally blows her own horn for the entire ride. Later at the party I keep bumping into her having the same kind of conversation with different men.
We are going to a place called Le Park, a large estate that is now a very fancy restaurant. It is like stepping into another world. The torch lit entrance way lead into a large room that looked like the main chamber in a Gallic castle. Several passage ways branched off to different areas, some inside, some out. I followed one passageway down to a giant reflecting pool, complete with swans and a statue of a horse. The place was so big I didn’t get to see it all, but all night I heard reports. “Did you see the duck pond?” “Have you been to the downstairs bar?” It was a nice party, except for one thing. There was hardly any food.
When you are covering a film festival often you are running from one screening to another, and there often isn’t that much time to eat. Many of the people at this party had done just that, expecting there to be food. When the food did come out people were incredulous. It all looked beautiful—exquisite little bowls of crudités with a personal sized dipping sauce, and some shot glass sized gelatin looking things, and nothing else. People attacked the food table like sharks in a feeding frenzy. One reporter said to me, “I’m so hungry my stomach is eating itself.” The food was gone in sixty seconds, and hopes were high that there would be a second course. Nope. An hour or so later some desserts were set out and they too disappeared in seconds. For the rest of the party you could see drunk people with icing sugar on their faces. There are few things more terrifying than a group of juiced up and hungry movie critics.
When the party was over we all boarded the shuttle busses which took us back to Cannes. Luckily they dropped us off downtown in an area that had several restaurants that stayed open late. We dashed for the nearest McDonalds—in tribute to Pulp Fiction I had a Royal with cheese—and saw a few dozen hungry people dressed in tuxedos from the party lined up behind us. I chose to walk home to burn off some of the McGrease floating around in my system and got in at 2:30. By 2:31 I was in bed and sound asleep.
MONDAY MAY 16, 2005
While I am on the way to my first interview of the morning—the director and cast of a Korean film called A Bittersweet Life—my phone rings and it is a frazzled publicist for the Koreans who wants to reschedule. I’m not available for the time they suggest and decline. Now my morning is largely free and I have time to prepare for my 11:30 interviews for the new Gael Garcia Bernal film The King. It’s about a troubled young man, recently discharged from the Navy, who returns to his childhood home of Corpus Christi, Texas to reunite with his father.
Bernal, who was the heart throb of the most recent Toronto International Film Festival, isn’t doing interviews today but I am speaking to several others involved with the movie. We’re doing the interviews on the grounds of a pretty little hotel called The Resideal just off the Croisette. When we arrive several other crews are getting set up, so we pick a quiet spot and get ready. The first person to come through is Milo Addica the screenwriter. We usually don’t get the chance to speak to writers. They are often at the bottom of the food chain publicity wise, but Addica is hot right now having penned Monster’s Ball and the controversial Nicole Kidman movie Birth.
He comes off as a bit of a curmudgeon at first—funny, but kind of crusty. We chat for fifteen minutes about the film, and he tells me that he can’t watch his own work on the screen. He’s too sensitive about it and constantly wants to go back and make revisions. When I suggest that he view the work as a time capsule of his life, almost like snapshots of where he was personally when the movies were made he says he would consider that, but only after some time has passed—like maybe 100 years.
Next is Pell James the pretty blonde actress who plays the love interest in the film. She has two films at Cannes this year—The King and Broken Flowers. We touch on Broken Flowers, the Jim Jarmusch film, but she can’t say much about it because she hasn’t seen it yet. From there she tells me about the audition for The King, and how she got a leg up on the other people trying out for the role by dying her hair and creating her own wardrobe for the part.
Last up was Laura Harring the bombshell from Mulholland Drive and former Miss USA. The crew were flipping coins and arguing over who would get to clip the microphone on her.
She tells me that this was her most demanding role to date, particularly in one scene where she has a breakdown in the street. To see the interviews for The King, tune into Reel to Real’s Cannes Specials in May.
From there it’s back to the press office to get some clerical work done—make up show runs and prepare to shoot the intros and extros for the final two shows we have to do here. On the way over I pass some of the street performers and vendors along the Croisette. First I see a man who carves and sells large wooden sculptures. He’s been here in the same spot every year that I have come to the festival, and I wonder if he actually sells anything. The sculptures are large, kind of ugly and must weigh a ton. I never see anyone with one of them tucked under their arm, but someone must pay him for them or he wouldn’t be here every year.
Then I see my favorite street performer—the cat juggler. He is legendary in Cannes but this is the first time I have seen him this year. He is dressed like Louis the 14th with a white painted face, a powdered wig and heavy brocade suit. He doesn’t actually juggle the cats, it’s more like balancing them on his outstretched arms while they do tricks with balls and string. He has a sign, written in French, which I’m told explains that he isn’t a hooligan, just a simple street performer who makes his living with his pets. It goes on to explain that the animals are never injured, nor are they drugged. “They are simply well loved.” PETA doesn’t need to target this guy.
At three I am scheduled to do some interviews on top of the Noga Hilton for a movie called Room. I haven’t seen this movie—it was screening at a time when I wasn’t available, but I looked it up on IMDB and one of the user reviews said, “Watch it if you’re looking for a reason to cry or commit suicide.” It is the story of Julia Barker, an over-worked, middle-aged Texas woman is haunted by psychic visions which drive her to New York in search of the Room.
When I arrive it is pouring rain, and I’m concerned the interviews might get cancelled. Luckily there is an indoor area we can use.
As we’re getting ready to shoot the rain lets up so we move to the balcony. It is one of the best views in Cannes—you can see the Croisette, the ocean and the beautiful old part of the city—and I really wanted all of that in the shot. I speak with actress Cyndi Williams first—not the Lavern and Shirley Williams, but a Texas stage actress who makes her big screen debut in Room. I ask the Texas native about shooting Room in New York City and she tells me horror stories about run-ins with giant rats and dealing with the crowds as they shot the outdoor scenes. I don’t think she’ll be moving to NYC anytime soon.
Next is Room director Kyle Henry who based the film, in part, on his experiences of living in NYC for several years prior to 9/11.
At four o’clock I have to see a documentary called James Dean: Forever Young. It is a companion piece to the Warner Brothers reissue of the three classic James Dean movies of the 1950’s—East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. It is screening in a hotel ballroom on a small screen, but I’m interested in seeing the “never-before-seen” archival footage.
The film—if you can call it that—is just a series of old clips strung together with a voice over from President Bartlett of The West Wing, Martin Sheen. It is interesting to see the old scenes of Dean’s television work, but there are too many clips. A typical voice-over from Sheen would be, “On October 14, 1953 Dean appeared in Keep Our Honor Bright on Kraft Television Theatre.” Roll clip. “Then just two days later on October 16, 1953 Dean played Hank Bradon in a teleplay called Life Sentence on the Campbell Playhouse.” And so it goes for an hour-and-a-half. There is no insight into what made him a great actor, no talking heads, just clip after clip after clip.
To describe James Dean: Forever Young as fawning would be an understatement. Any rough edges that Dean may have had—and apparently there were a few—are smoothed and polished to a high gloss here. It seems more like an infomercial for the new DVDs than a film. Twenty minutes in I’m fighting to keep my eyes open, but those around me seem to be losing the battle. I count four people who have dropped off sitting near me.
Afterwards I stay for the cocktail reception thrown by the filmmakers. I may not have enjoyed the film that much, but that won’t stop me from eating their food. I snack on a few sandwiches and order a coke from the bar.
“I’m sorry but the bar is closed,” I’m told by the bartender.
“But the party just started ten minutes ago,” I said, looking at the dozens of pre-poured glasses of wine and chilled bottles of soda and beer.
Several other people try in vain to get drinks, as I find someone to complain to. I find the publicist who thinks I am joking when I tell her that the bar is refusing to serve anyone. She speaks to the bartender, telling him that she is in charge and the bar is to be open for the next hour or so. Still he refuses to pour a drink. Thirsty journalists are starting to circle the bar, and gesture threateningly at the stubborn bartender.
A few minutes later a man in a black suit shows up, presumably the bartender’s boss and has a few curt words with him. “The bar is now open,” says the bartender who is nearly trampled by the rush of journos trying to get a drink. I take a sip of my coke, eat another sandwich and leave.
I’m starting to feel a little frayed around the edges—we have been out quite late the last few nights, the champagne has been flowing and sleep has been scarce. I kill the evening by catching up on some paper work, preparing for my interview with Carlos Reygadas, the Mexican director of Battle in Heaven and watching Star Wars: The Attack of the Clones in French on television before turning in early.
TUESDAY MAY 17, 2005
I sleep in and miss the 8:30 screening of the Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers. In fact I would have missed it if it screened at 9:30, 10:30 or even 11:30. I haven’t slept that late for a long time.
The trip is winding down. If the weather holds out we’ll shoot the intros and extros for the 3rd and 4th shows we’re doing from here and I have an interview scheduled with Carlos Reygadas at 3:55 on the roof of the Noga Hilton. I saw Reygadas the other day on the street and he approached me and said, “Do you remember me?” He was one of the first interviews I ever did in Cannes when I spoke with him for his movie Japon, and I think I was one of his first interviews. We say hello and I tell him that I will be seeing him at the press day.
The weather looks threatening, but it is still hot and there are patches of blue sky. When we arrive at the suite we are offered and outside set or a much drabber looking set-up inside. Because there are bits of blue in the sky we choose to stay outside and set up under a large wooden umbrella. There are two large HMI lights—like movie lights; big and powerful—focused on us and other bits of electronic equipment strewn about.
As we start the interview I can feel a drop or two of rain, but am not concerned. By the second question it has actually started to rain, but we’re covered by the umbrella so we’re fine. At question three I hear a popping sound and one of the HMIs blows, but we continue. I see lightening in the sky over Carlos’s shoulder and the back of my jacket is starting to get wet. We continue as Carlos zips up his jacket and looks around nervously. A loud clap of thunder makes us both jump.
I pause before asking a question about the religious symbolism in the film. He begins to answer as the umbrella unleashes a gallon or two of water right down my back. Later the publicist would say that my reaction, or lack of reaction, was one of the greatest things she’d ever seen at Cannes. Despite having a bucket of water poured on me I didn’t flinch and continued the interview. We spoke until the pounding of the rain on the umbrella and claps of thunder were drowning out our words. When the soaked power box on my cordless microphone started to spark I called it quits. Carlos was a great sport about it, and it was definitely one of the more risky interview situations that I have ever been in.
Soaked, we tear down the equipment and head for a dry place. The guys return to the apartment to towel off while I dry out in the press office.
We close off the night, and the trip with a dinner at Gavrouche in the old part of Cannes. It is a tradition with the Reel to Real crew to have dinner there on the last night of our stay each year. It’s a beautiful little restaurant with only ten tables and attentive service from the chef’s wife who doubles as waitress. It is really the first proper sit down meal we have had since we’ve been here, and I’m determined to enjoy myself.
I order a Heineken mull over the menu. The server comes over to explain the house dishes to us. When I point to one that I can’t read in French, she simply says, “You don’t want that one.” When I ask why, her one word reply is, “Kidneys.”
I take a pass on the organs and order a foie gras appetizer (I know, I know, but it so good) and a filet mignon. When I order another beer she frowns and hands me a wine list. I politely tell her that I don’t want wine, but I would like another Heineken.
“We have lots of Heineken,” she says, “but not for drinking.”
I’m not exactly sure what she means. Eventually a beer arrives, but she doesn’t seem overly happy about my barbarian taste for beer vs. wine.
With my dessert I order a cognac and that seems to restore her faith in me.
Tired we load all the equipment into a cab and head back to apartment. It is our last night there, but I have scheduled several interviews for the next day before we have to leave. After packing, then sitting on our balcony—which I haven’t stepped foot on since the first day we got here—I call it a night.
WEDNESDAY MAY 18, 2005
It feels over, but actually the day is kind of busy. Because of the poor weather over the last couple of days we have to shoot the links—intros and extros—for two shows and do a series of interviews before hopping in a cab and beginning the long trek home.
We meet Christi Puiu on the beach by the British Pavilion at 10. He is the Romanian director of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and our first interview of the day. I show him a positive review of his film in the Daily Variety and as he reads it he asks me what certain words mean. When he is done reading he asks me if it was a good review. I tell him it was.
We do the interview on the beach, and despite needing to be coached through the written portion of the day—the review—he did very well on the oral part. He explained to me that he wrote The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, a dour take on the dehumanizing process of medical treatment because he is a hypochrondriac and is obsessed with death.
On that happy note we end the interview and hustle over to the Carlton Hotel for the final interviews of the trip. I’m scheduled to speak to Phil Stern and Marcus Winslow, James Dean’s photographe rand cousin. We arrive on time but there is no one there. A large poster with one of Phil Stern’s photos of Dean is propped up against the door, so I know we’re in the right place, but there isn’t a soul around.
We wait around, and the camera guys are getting antsy. It’s our last day and they want to go out and do some shopping, hit the beach, anything but hang around this hotel waiting for people who may or may not show up.
Eventually they arrive and it seems like things are running out of control. Mr. Stern is an older man with an oxygen tank, a walker and an outrageous sense of humor. “I like you,” he says when we meet. “Let’s go to San Francisco and get married.”
Unfortunately the scheduling gods were not working on our side. Today was supposed to be a print press only day, but I had made arrangements to bring a camera and grab a couple of interviews. Yesterday the publicist assured me that it would work out. Today, however, she seems flustered and it looks unlikely that the interviews are going to happen. After killing time for almost an hour I make the call to cancel the whole thing. The camera guys disappear into the bright sunshine and I do one last round of Cannes before heading back to the apartment to get ready to leave.
The guys come back at 5:30 and we’re off at six, once again the three of us and all our equipment jammed into one small cab that takes us to Nice. At Nice we bump into Julia Taylor-Stanley, the director of These Foolish Things. She’s very friendly and we talk for an hour or so before boarding the plane to London. She tells me that Terence Stamp told her that I was his favorite interviewer of his Cannes press day. I’m glad to hear that, as I enjoyed talking to him so much.
From there on the trip is a bit of a blur. We arrive in London at 10:30 pm but by the time we deal with customs it is approaching midnight and we have an early flight. We take a cab to a local hotel and grab a few hours sleep before heading back to Heathrow for our 8:20 am flight.
On the plane ride home I think about how I always look forward to going to Cannes, but ten days later when it is time to leave I can’t wait to get home. The festival was successful for us again this year, despite the slow start. We grabbed loads of interviews and have more than enough material for the four shows we have to do. Right now I’m over the moon to be leaving, missing my girlfriend and my bed, but in a few months, I’m sure I’ll be excited about going back into the fray next year.
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