Film Scouts Diaries

1998 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Cannes Diary #4: Cannes and the Media

by Cari Beauchamp

The publicity machine that is Cannes is churning as usual films in competition and films that have just been budgeted -- the stars are brought it in, the photo calls begin and several days of frantic activity results in months of publicity throughout the world. Cannes is still the undisputed queen when it comes to gathering international press in one spot and studios willing to take a risk and budget the huge sums required can generate thousands of column inches of copy and hundreds of photos. Publicists have the most serious demeanor of anyone here -- constantly pensive brows and cell phones always at the ear.

There is of course a hierarchy to the press contingent -- with Roger Ebert being the senior member and most sought after and then on down the line. For instance, Roger and his wife were among the select few invited to the Hotel du Cap to lunch with Sharon Stone -- a larger group attended the Am Far dinner in Mougins -- and then the next level are brought into buffet breakfasts at the Carlton or beach lunches for group encounters with directors and stars. One on one sessions, ten minutes each, are scheduled for hours at a time with the television crews in attendance like E!, Access Hollywood, CNN, etc etc

For everyone else with a press pass, there is the press conference held following the first screening of each film in competition. The director, producer and up to half a dozen stars sit at the dias and are either accosted with questions -- 75% of which go to the director -- or an ominous silence can descend on the room. The moderator is there to pick up the slack, but no matter if the film has been greeted with critical praise or a pan, one of the most disconcerting aspects to American reporters is the journalists from other countries swarm the dias after the final question to get the stars' autograph. Hard hitting questions followed by hero worship.

Of course that's the point - there rarely are hard hitting questions - press conferences are generally a love fest, but occasionally they turn quirky and funny things can happen. Most of the time at this year's press conference for Goodbye Lover was spent joking about Don Johnson's talent - or lack of it - as a musician -- to the point that co-stars Mary Louise Parker and Dermot Mulroney sat squirming -- trying to be attentive, but with nothing to respond to.

Over the years I've found that the best tidbits from the press conference rarely have anything to do with the film in question -- for instance, a throw away question to John Boorman this year -- inquiring as to what he thought of Mel Gibson "remaking" Boorman's 1967 Point Blank brought forth the following paraphrased story, told with a totally straight face:

I read the script for Point Blank and then met with Lee Marvin. We agreed we loved the story but hated the script, so we threw the original script out the window and started over. I have seen the script that Mel Gibson plans to make and it seems he picked up the one we threw out the window. Therefore I have decided that he is the one making the original and I am the one who 'remade' Point Blank.

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