Martin Grove’s Hollywood Report 05-14-12

Jean Dujardin, winner of the “Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role” Award

Jean Dujardin, winner of the “Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role” Award

“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” – In Theaters June 8th

“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” – In Theaters June 8th

“Rise of the Guardians” – In Theaters November 21st

“Rise of the Guardians” – In Theaters November 21st

Cannes celebration: The Cannes Film Festival, which turns 65 this week, continues to be the world’s highest profile celebration of movies as both an art and a business.

Thanks to the global media spotlight focused on Cannes all these years, the festival’s public image is of topless starlets, wild all-night parties, dazzling black tie premieres and movie moguls’ jumbo yachts dotting the harbor. People around the world know the fabled Croisette and its legendary hotels as the setting for the festival’s round-the-clock action.

In recent years, however, the real action has shifted to the film market that’s held simultaneously with the festival. To filmmakers, Cannes is the perfect launch pad for new projects looking for production money and for completed films seeking distribution.

A great example of how Cannes can generate movie success is last year’s acquisition by The Weinstein Company (TWC) of the silent, black & white French comedy “The Artist.” Written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist” was originally going to be screened out of competition at Cannes. It wound up, however, being shown in competition with a nomination for the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or. The film’s star, Jean Dujardin, was nominated for best actor and won.

Although “The Artist” lost to Terence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, for best picture, its Cannes buzz was loud enough to attract interest from TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, who acquired its U.S. distribution rights — reportedly for a “low seven figures” deal.

In Harvey’s capable hands, “The Artist” went on to receive 10 Oscar nominations, winning in five categories — best picture, director, actor (Dujardin), costume design and original score. At a screening last December at the Motion Picture Academy’s Beverly Hills theatre, Harvey introduced the film by explaining how after he’d acquired it at Cannes he’d told his co-chairman/brother Bob Weinstein about the deal — black & white, silent, no big stars, expensive. To which Bob replied, he said, that they’d need to put that deal in front of TWC’s board of directors. A huge laugh greeted Harvey’s line that he replied, “I didn’t know we had a board, Bob.”

In any event, no one at TWC is unhappy about “The Artist,” which through last weekend had grossed a highly profitable $44.4 million in domestic theatres.

As for “The Tree of Life,” it parlayed its Palme d’Or victory into three Oscar nominations, including best picture, director and cinematography.

TWC made the most at Cannes 2011 of acquiring “The Artist” and several other projects. At the time, TWC was trying to get the word out that it had reversed an earlier downward financial slide and that its prospects were now much improved. To do so, it held a media event at the Hotel Martinez on the Croisette, hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker, who was starring opposite Pierce Brosnan in TWC’s then upcoming comedy “I Don’t Know How She Does It.”

The combination of power, money, celebrities and high profile projects fueled by free flowing spirits and endless haute cuisine is the winning formula for success at Cannes. The trouble is everyone at Cannes knows that and is working at it 24/7. Not surprisingly, even the most experienced players at Cannes find themselves burning out by closing night.

As a veteran, myself, of hosting filmmaker interview TV shows at the festival for a few years, I can assure you there’s no way to avoid the stress that comes from not having enough hours in the day or night to do everything you want to do. Virtually every invitation that turns up is unbelievably tempting and the only way to fit them all in is to proceed non-stop from one to the other until dawn and then move on to the breakfast receptions, morning screenings, lunches on the beach and cocktail parties.

The real challenge is seeing some movies in between all the parties. But, somehow, people actually do get to the screenings — especially the black tie events at the Palais on the Croisette. In fact, it takes every bit of influence one can muster to get tickets to the festival’s highest profile films and nearly as much effort to nail down seats for the lesser known titles.

Even films that aren’t in competition at Cannes command major global media attention just by being there. A case in point is DreamWorks Animation’s animated 3D adventure “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” which opens in domestic theatres June 8 via Paramount, but is world premiering at Cannes Friday (May 18).

DreamWorks Animation and Paramount are launching the film at Cannes in order to benefit from the worldwide buzz its two screenings will generate. The franchise’s first two episodes grossed $376.6 million domestically. The most recent one, “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” did $180 million in domestic theatres after opening Nov. 7, 2008 to $63.1 million. Turning the Cannes spotlight on the latest European themed episode is a smart way to re-energize the franchise.

DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg has for years been one of Hollywood’s biggest Cannes enthusiasts. Besides premiering “Madagascar 3” this time around, he’s also holding what the studio’s calling “a breakfast reception and a very special sneak peek of footage” from the animated adventure “Rise of the Guardians,” which doesn’t open domestically until Nov. 21. The film’s director Peter Ramsey, executive producer William Joyce and voice talents Chris Pine and Alec Baldwin are scheduled to host the media event Wednesday (May 16) at 8:30 a.m.

It’s really the global media presence in Cannes that makes everything work. You can’t help but attract news coverage with so many print and television journalists prowling the Croisette looking for something to report on in order to justify the exorbitant cost of them being there.

The films that will get the most attention at Cannes, of course, are those being shown in competition. Among those likely to generate strong interest at screenings from May 16-27 are:

  • David Cronenberg’s drama “Cosmopolis,” starring Robert Pattinson, Jay Baruchel and Juliette Binoche. Cronenberg’s been a Palme d’Or nominee for “A History of Violence” (2005), “Spider” (2002) and “Crash” (1996), for which he won the Jury Special Prize.
  • Alain Resnais’ drama “Vous N’Avez Encore Rien Vu” (“You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!”), starring Mathieu Amalric, Lambert Wilson and Michel Piccoli. The legendary Resnais, who’s 89 and unlikely to make another film, was previously a Palme d’Or nominee for “Wild Grass” (2009), “Mon Oncle d’Amerique” (1980), “Stavisky” (1974) and “Hiroshima Mon Amour” (1959). Among his other films are the classics “Last Year at Marienbad” (1961) and “Night and Fog” (1955).
  • Walter Salles’ drama “On the Road,” starring Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart, adapted from Jack Kerouac’s classic Beat Generation novel. Salles was previously a Palme d’Or nominee for “Linha de Passe” (2008) and “The Motorcycle Diaries” (2004).
  • Lee Daniels’ erotic thriller “The Paperboy,” starring Zac Efron, John Cusack and Nicole Kidman. This is the first Palme d’Or nomination for Daniels, who was Oscar nominated in 2010 for directing the best picture nominated drama “Precious.”
  • Michael Haneke’s drama “Amour” (“Love”), starring Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant and William Shimell. Haneke was previously a Palme d’Or nominee for “The White Ribbon” (2009), “Cache” (“Hidden”) (2009), “The Piano Teacher” (2001), “Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys” (2000) and “Funny Games” (1997).
  • Andrew Dominik’s crime thriller “Killing Them Softly,” starring Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins. This is the first Palme d’Or nomination for Dominik, whose credits include “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” and “Chopper.”
  • Jacques Audiard’s mystery “Rust & Bone,” starring Marion Cotillard, Mattias Schoenaerts and Bouli Lanners. Audiard was previously a Palme d’Or nominee for “A Prophet” (2009), which won the Jury Grand Prize, and “A Self-Made Hero” (1996), which won best screenplay.
  • Wes Anderson’s romantic comedy drama “Moonrise Kingdom,” starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward and Bruce Willis, the festival’s opening night film. This is the first Palme d’Or nomination for Anderson, whose credits include “The Royal Tennenbaums” (2001) and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009).

Missing, by the way, from this year’s festival competition is Woody Allen, whose romantic comedy “Midnight in Paris” was the opening night film last year. After a warm reception at Cannes it went on to become a global hit with critics and audiences. Its domestic theatrical release through Sony Pictures Classics grossed $56.8 million, making it Woody’s biggest U.S. boxoffice hit ever.

Woody’s new comedy “To Rome With Love,” in which he stars opposite Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Judy Davis and Roberto Benigni, bypassed Cannes and opened in Italy last weekend. It arrives in the U.S. June 22 via Sony Pictures Classics, initially with exclusive runs in New York and Los Angeles.

Bottom line: If you haven’t been to Cannes and are curious to know what the festival’s like, the easiest way to do so is to find a DVD to rent or buy of one of my most favorite films, Henry Jaglom’s 2001 comedy “Festival in Cannes.” Its ensemble cast includes Anouk Aimee, Greta Scacchi, Maximillian Schell, Ron Silver, Zack Norman, Peter Bogdanovich and Jenny Gabrielle, all of whom deliver delightful performances.

The 1999 Cannes Film Festival is the lively backdrop for the action, which ranges up and down the Croisette with its huge movie billboards decorating the stately hotels’ facades. Jaglom also takes us inside the ultra-exclusive, cash-only Hotel du Cap in nearby Cap d’Antibes. The du Cap is home to the festival’s mega-expense account blessed guests (aside from those who prefer to stay on their yachts in the Cannes harbor) and about a half-hour drive from Cannes.

The film’s story revolves around aging movie star Millie Marquand (Aimee) who’s suddenly in demand for two very different films. The first is a large starring role for very little money in a tiny independent movie written by Alice Palmer (Scacchi), a young actress who wants to start directing. The role’s perfect for Millie and unique because films about women of a certain age are quite rare.

The second movie is a big Hollywood production that a major producer, Rick Yorkin (Silver), is putting together to star Tom Hanks. The problem is that Hanks will only do the film if a young French actress, Simone Duvall, stars opposite him and she’ll only do the film if Millie’s cast to play her mother. So even though the mother’s role is a tiny one, there’s a big payday in it for Millie — and, more importantly, for Rick, who’s badly over-extended financially — if only she’ll agree to do it. Unfortunately, the timing is such that she can only do one of the films.

The machinations that Rick and Alice and their supporting teams go through while competing on private terraces at the du Cap and in cafes around Cannes to sign Millie are a fascinating portrayal of what life’s like in Cannes, at least during the festival.

Victoria Foyt and Jaglom’s screenplay also follows the twists and turns of some other compelling characters’ stories during the festival, all of which interrelate very nicely in the end.