The sun finally came back to a windy and rainy Cannes but the weather clearly couldn’t slow the nonstop parties, premieres, deals and hype for which this festival is famous. And despite the rain on Saturday the turnout for Lionsgate’s big Catching Fire bash was wall-to-wall at Baoli Beach, with everyone including star Jennifer Lawrence crowded into the large tent. One exec there actually was happy with the monsoon-like conditions. “The rain probably kept 30% of our RSVPs away which is probably good because i don’t know how we could have squeezed them in,” he said.
With everyone drying out Sunday there seemed to be even more party-hopping than usual. At the crowded Participant Films party at the Carlton, Focus Features CEO James Schamus was accepting congratulations on his re-upping at the company. I have rarely heard him wax more eloquently about a film than Focus’ recent pickup of The Dallas Buyers Club, the movie where Matthew McConaughey lost about 50 pounds to play an early AIDS victim. It’s not dated yet according to Schamus but is planned for fall sometime. “It’s just a bloodbath trying to pick the right date in that period but this movie is extraordinary. I just so admire what Matthew has been doing with his career in the last couple of years between Magic Mike, Killer Joe, The Paperboy, Mud and now this. You know me, I don’t rave like this a lot, but he really knocks this one out of the park. It is the performance of a lifetime,” he says of the actor in a film that is sure to be a main focus of Focus’ awards-season plans.
Across the street at Millennium’s party for James Franco, the star was chatting up buyers on two future films for the company: Good People, in which he stars, and another called Garden Of Last Days in which he stars and directs just as he has done for As I Lay Dying, an Un Certain Regard entry premiering tonight. He’s a busy guy, and if that wasn’t enough he also co-stars in Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis‘ ambitious and daring new love story Third Person, which was being sold to foreign buyers here and is fully financed by Belgian company Corsan. Haggis told me he thinks it is his best work to date, “and I usually don’t like anything I do”, said the man who directed Crash and In The Valley Of Elah and wrote Million Dollar Baby, Flags Of Our Fathers and James Bond movies Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace.
Haggis wasn’t even coming to Cannes but just decided to “stop by” over the weekend on his way to London for post-production work on the film. which was shot mostly in Rome. He needs to hire a composer and still do some shooting in Paris on the multi-story movie which also stars Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Kim Basinger and Maria Bello. Even in the rough assemblage Haggis showed me on his Mac in his Carlton suite, it’s clear this is a challenging and fearless adult drama, the kind studios don’t make anymore — almost European in it style and very personal. “I like to write about things I don’t understand and slowly these three stories about relationships evolved”, he says. “It took me two and a half years to write, 6 days a week, 8 hours a day often getting it wrong. Its very similar to Crash in that it took a long time to percolate…Every question these characters are grappling with are questions I have grappled with and they play them out for me. And if it was going to be a really complex story like this I wanted to set it in beautiful locations so that you have that respite and the fun and the romance that just took you away and then keeps slamming you in the face”. Neeson, Wilde and Kunis have the juiciest roles and really run with it. Haggis hopes to find a U.S. distributor in time to premiere it at a festival, most likely Toronto in September where Crash was launched. If possible he’d like to get it out before the end of the year but that depends. Strong stuff indeed, and Haggis says some distribs might be “scared” but he’s forging on. That’s what people do in Cannes to sell their wares.
At The Weinstein Company party Sunday at Baoli Beach, Tim Burton was talking about his latest project: a first collaboration with Weinstein called Big Eyes from a screenplay by his Ed Wood writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karasewski and another offbeat true-life story. Earlier in the day I moderated a panel for buyers with Burton and co-star (and Cannes jury member) Christoph Waltz, who plays Walter Keane to Amy Adams’ Margaret Keane in the story of the rocky relationship of the husband and wife who created the infamous Big Eyes mass-produced art work in the 1950s and ’60s. Burton shoots this summer in Vancouver and it’s a smaller-scaled film he is looking forward to doing for a change.
Perhaps the most relaxed and intimate party over the weekend was the one at Canal Plus following Sunday night’s triumphant premiere of the Coen brothers’ latest Inside Llewyn Davis. After what I am told was an enthusiastic 6 1/2-minute standing ovation for the film, the Coens and their cast were in a mood to celebrate. The film, which will be released December 6th by CBS Films in the U.S, should definitely be another Oscar contender for the multi-Oscared pair. CBS chief Les Moonves (there with wife Julie Chen) was over the moon about the reception here for the movie as he chatted with me at the party. In fact he said he’s really happy with the CBS Films slate in general including the May 31 release The Kings Of Summer and the upcoming November comedy Last Vegas, a kind of senior-citizen Hangover starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman which Moonves says is a winner. “It is for everyone 20 to 80, just a really fun movie people will love”. He pointed to CBS Films’ co-president Terry Press, also in Cannes for the premiere, for putting the film company on the right track.
Inside Llewyn Davis co-star John Goodman wasn’t at the party but had flown directly from the Los Angeles set of Monuments Men to walk the red carpet and see the film before getting right back on a plane to L.A. Absent was another scene-stealing star, the cat. Actually, I am told it was six cats used overall. Star Oscar Isaac, who will be a Best Actor contender for his revelatory work in the film, was telling me he got scratched under the eye by one of them who was strapped to him for a run down the subway steps. “What cat tied to a human being is going to be happy about that?” he said of his frisky co-stars — even though he wasn’t sure whether it was Darryl, Gerald or the others whose names he couldn’t remember. One CBS Films exec said the collective cat was “this year’s Uggie” (the Jack Terrier star of The Artist).