Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Deauville Film Festival Diaries
Deauville Diary: Honoring Arnon Milchan

by Lisa Nesselson

The French premiere of "A Time to Kill" was scheduled for 9 PM on September 2nd, but it was preceeded by an entertaining hour-long love fest in tribute to guest-of-honor, prolific film producer Arnon Milchan. Milchan's mother and other members of his family, including, "my son, the tall handsome one -- who's available -- and my daughter, who's not available" joined some 700 guests for the festive event.

Milchan's filmography is pretty darn impressive. You may not have heard of 1977's "Black Joy" but titles such as "The King of Comedy," "Once Upon a Time in America," "Brazil," "The War of the Roses," "Pretty Woman," "JFK," "Under Siege," "Sommersby," "Free Willy," "Falling Down," "The Client," "Natural Born Killers," "Boys on the Side," "Heat" and "Ton Cup" probably ring a bell.

The huge curtain parted in order to show specially filmed congratulations from an almost unrecognizably scruffy Matthew McConaughey and, in contrast, an easily identified but equally sincere Whoopi Goldberg (who concluded "God bless you Arnon - I know he does.")

Jack Valenti of the Motion Picture Association of America praised Milchan's combo of European sensibility and American-style know-how as "splendid and rare." In-person tributes included one by an Israeli violinist who set the letters of Milchan's first name to music, yielding a lovely melody. "Before we continue," joked Milchan, "who's got the publishing?"

Milchan thanked Deauville, where "Brazil" and "Pretty Woman" had their European premieres, and thanked French Minister of Culture Douste-Blazy, "who was here but had to leave." Milchan then slyly added, "I'm sure he would have liked to pose for a picture with Jack Valenti. I have to start trouble wherever I go."

Milchan expressed his gratitude to many long-time collaborators and thanked his foreign partners in Korea, Germany and especially France, marvelling "The whole system here, believe it or not, helped a guy who is not French."

The 53-year-old Israel-born producer referred to Deauville fave Kevin Spacey (who just wrapped his role in Milchan's "L.A. Confidential") as "my new brother" and ended with a brief plea in French to work toward "cinema that knows no borders." Spacey returned the compliment by taking the stage with a pre-poured glass of champagne and announcing that "Once again, when the film starts, you'll see the words An Arnon Milchan Production."

Gerard Depardieu, who co-stars in Milchan's new production "Bogus" and whose friendship with Milchan dates back to the producer's aborted involvement in the original French film "The Return of Martin Guerre" pointed out that Milchan later produced the American remake "Sommersby" and laughingly explained that "Cinema has no borders except the way I speak English."

Joel Schumacher, who directed "Falling Down," "The Client" and the latest John Grisham-based blockbuster for Milchan, is making a record fifth film presentation at Deauville with "A Time to Kill." "Welcome to the Arnon Milchan Bar Mitzvah," Schumacher announced, taking the mike. Schumacher then described his serendipitous meeting with the producer back when the former set designer was doing research at the Paris Opera for use by Andrew Lloyd Weber for his "Phantom of the Opera." At the suggestion of friends, Schumacher hitched a ride to the Hotel du Cap in Antibes in Milchan's private jet, "which was the only private plane to take off from Paris on Bastille Day, when the airspace over the city is closed except to military aircraft. I said, 'I gotta meet this guy.' We met and we fell in love."

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