Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999

1999 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Days 2 through 9 (Part III: What Surfaced, What Stuck)

by Henri Béhar

Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999 is brought to you by:

CANNES, Thursday, May 20

More from the chaotic files of my semi-delirious mind of the last week.

Before being introduced to the press corps (as if he needed to), Sean Connery apologizes for not speaking French, but, since he understands the language somewhat, he will attempt to make sense of the questions.

No such qualms for Catherine Zeta Jones, his partner in Jon Amiel's Entrapment. She who got the ShoWest award 1999 for fencing Antonio Banderas off the screen in Mask of Zorro made her film debut in a French movie, made by a French director (Philippe de Broca). She never stopped practicing the language, she's actually pretty good at it.

If you've seen Entrapment, there should be no doubt in your mind that this young woman is a trained dancer and an acrobat. "I've danced all my life, so that definitely came into play" she says. Adds director Jon Amiel: "We designed a lot of the actions scenes with her physical skills in mind. In other words, the more we found out what she could do, the more we added stuff..."

"And she looks much greater that I would doing them," Sean Connery chimes in.

"Well, you look great in leotards," counters Jon Amiel.

When he is asked how he feels about being forever identified with James Bond - and why does Monsieur 007 still endures, as a character - Sean Connery's face speaks volumes... then "I lose sleep at night." At which point, a journalist turns to the man who asked the question and says, very politely: "I think you have it all wrong, sir. Mr. Connery will not be forever identified with Mr. Bond; Mr. Bond will forever be identified with Mr. Connery.

Asked about the double standard prevalent in Hollywood cinema, in particular, whereby elderly men (read Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery) are allowed to retain their sexuality, whereas women three-quarters or even half their age don't, Zeta-Jones replied "I just saw Catherine Deneuve arrive in Cannes. Nobody's going to tell her she can't have a sexuality on screen..."

Since we're on the subject of sex, "Mr. Connery, you have bedded many women in your Bond films; how does Ms Zeta Jones' character compare with them?"


"Well, it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it..." (laughter) "She's a great kisser."

Zeta-Jones (to Sean Connery): "I'll pay you later."

Question to Zeta-Jones: "And how does Mr. Connery rate in that department?"

"Well, I've had a great run at kissing men on screen. I'd say that on a scale of 1 to 10, he's an 11+." (She turns to Sean Connery) "And you can pay me later."

Getting more serious. Sean Connery, an avowed Scottish nationalist, had undertaken building studios in Scotland. "Six stages, state-of-the art, to be part of a triangle with Pinewood and Shepperton." He embarks in a precise overview of the British industry, concluding, "Until we build or rebuild proper infrastructures, well just always be waiting for American money."

Emphasizing that he, too, comes from a country that is just redesigning its maps - and may have to do so if Quebec eventually separates - Canadian journalist Bruce Kirkland asks Sean Connery to comment on what recently happened in Scotland, which may bring about a substantial measure of autonomy and ultimately political equality with England. Mr. Connery's answer is long and detailed - I can hardly hear it as fever is swelling up and drowning my head and brain. I'll have to listen to the tape. All I remember is at some point Sean Connery bending over while someone else is doing the talking and asking me discretely, "Are you all right?"

The same thing happened the following day, during the Steven Soderbergh-Peter Fonda-Terence Stamp Limey press conference. I vaguely remember Fonda and Stamp saying they'd met in the mid-60s ("We compared top-models," chuckled Stamp). We'll get back to the film itself when it's about to come out in the States. Here, too, all I remember was Terence Stamp bending over and asking me whether I was all right?"

Took to bed immediately, with fever hovering between 101 and 102+. Asked to be replaced for Atom Egoyan's press conference - a heart breaker, as the man is a friend and Felicia's Journey a dark gem of a movie.

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