Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Real Deal at Cannes

I was going to write about the joys of post Film Festival life this week, notwithstanding being stung by a huge jellyfish in Saint Tropez at the weekend (I am now sporting a third boob…attractive.) But as the most asked question of the last month has been ‘Go on Kazza, give us all the goss on Film Festival,’ here is the real deal (and if I wasn’t fussed about being accredited for next year, there would be a lot more juice.)

A scantily clad waitress is holding aloft a huge chocolate birthday cake ablaze with candles as she’s carried cross legged on a silver platter by six fit waiters high above the crowd at Nikki Beach to the sounds of Stevie Wonder's Happy Birthday to mark the birthday of one of Eva Longoria's VIP party. Girls who look suspiciously like they have been paid to look like party animals are dancing on tables alongside which rest magnums of Moet & Chandon in huge ice buckets.

It can only be Cannes, the craziest, most excessive film festival in the world, to which Hollywood’s A list decamp from Los Angeles for two weeks every May to party like mad on the Côte d’Azur. So what is it really like to have access all areas at the most talked about event in the celebrity social calendar?

I’ve been covering the festival for six years and while it’s been suggested that Cannes is losing its glam factor, you only had to be at Calvin Klein’s chic beach party watching a black leather clad Nicole Kidman make a show stopping entrance to realise that definitely isn't the case. With a table at amfAR costing €120,000 for ten guests and red carpet premiere tickets changing hands for €3,000 a seat, you need deep pockets or a certain degree of fame - or infamy - to come here.

It’s not all glamour, however, and behind the scenes competition to get a few measly quotes from the red carpet is fierce. At Swiss watch brand IWC Shaffhausen, manners are in short supply as journalists, film crews and photographers jostle for the best position as guests arrive for a gala dinner at the exclusive Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc, where the most lavish parties of the festival, including de Grisogono and the amfAR AIDS Benefit, take place. It’s also where Leonardo DiCaprio promoted Cannes opener The Great Gatsby, giving five minute interviews to the world's press. (The deal was they had to return the following day to interview the rest of the cast in order to get their tapes of Leo’s interview.)

Back to the red carpet, and I get elbowed in the face by one desperate French TV reporter eager to get to the front in the hope of a few words with the A list arrivals. It almost seems worth it as we have been promised Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Cate Blanchett in a tip sheet from the PR a few days earlier. The reality is not quite the same league - Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay, model Karolina Kurkova and Grey’s Anatomy actor Eric Dane, who was flown in specially, naturally sporting one of the company’s watches, before being flown back to America a day later.

It's not just about celebrities either. Drinks brands Ciroc, Moet & Chandon and Belvedere spend hundreds of thousands of pounds sponsoring parties and hiring superyachts – jury president Steven Spielberg’s Seven Seas was the ultimate this year, with its own private screening theatre - to throw lavish cocktail parties to raise their profile. The Johnnie Walker Blue Label yacht hosted Martin Scorsese and Leo DiCaprio, his father George and stepmother Peggy, creating column inches that money alone just can't buy.

Belvedere threw one of the most talked about parties of the fortnight at VIP Room, flying in Run DMC's Reverend Run to DJ to a crowd including a flirty and reportedly newly single Liam Hemsworth and Solange Knowles. Important note: the drinks were only on the house for celebrities - so while Liam got a free ice bucket of cold beer, everyone else had to pay, (and at €45 for a glass of champagne and a vodka and Red Bull, you learn to drink slowly.) The naked fire-eater, dancing dwarves and trapeze artists hanging from the ceiling made up for it I guess.

I took my 18-year-old daughter Livvy along, after she begged, pleaded and cajoled to be allowed to come to a proper film festival party. I called it a day at two rounds (yep, €90) only for us to be invited into the VVIP area by a 31-year-old New York magazine publisher with the immortal words: ‘Why wait at the bar when you can drink for free with us?’ We joined him and his friends who were ‘something big in Bollywood.’ They were knocking back magnums of Belvedere vodka and Dom Perignon and while they were very generous, it soon became clear that there was another agenda. As we went to leave at 4am after what I can’t deny turned out to be a great night, he tried to persuade me to leave Livvy behind, telling me: ‘Your daughter is HOT.’ Like that was going to work.

With dozens of parties every night and each one vying to attract the classiest calibre of guests, the longer celebs stay at your bash, the more successful it is deemed. Many make a brief appearance for the cameras before quietly slipping away in their search for the coolest party of the night.

The borrowed jewels lent to A listers come with their own bodyguards although this didn't stop thieves making off with a reported €1m heist of Chopard gems from a Cannes hotel safe on the same night as the company’s Trophée party at the Martinez. Clearly, there were plenty more baubles to go round as Cara Delevingne was spotted shaking a priceless 18 carat white gold and diamond Chopard necklace and squealing: ‘Look at this, look at this!’ as she showed it off to fellow guests. She was unable to head off to another party with fellow supermodel Laura Bailey as she was required to stay at the party as an ambassador for the brand, although she later appeared at the Calvin Klein soiree a couple of miles further down the Croisette.

You know you have made it if you are invited to the Chopard Lounge on the seventh floor of the celebs base of choice, the Martinez. Their rooftop spa was transformed into a luxurious private club, with oversized sofas, fresh roses and jasmine and chill-out music playing. Waiters deliver glasses of pink Champagne, platters of fresh fruit and canapés (sushi is the A list favourite as it’s low cal) to celebrity and VIP guests. There is an eyebrow and lash tinting room run by Paris’s queen of brows Sabrina of Un Jour Un Regard, who was flown in from the French capital to tend to Nicole Kidman, Cara Delevingne and Marion Cotillard. The Mavala manicurist from London offers manis and pedis and just along the corridor is the L'Oreal hair lounge where you can have a pre-red carpet blow-dry and makeover. No money changes hands, these are free services to a1nyone lucky enough to boast a coveted pink Chopard access badge around their necks.

The press pass is also colour co-ordinated but doesn’t bring such high end delights. White and rose are the most highly regarded, giving VIP access to press screenings, increased likelihood of a red carpet premiere ticket and preferred access to the press conferences, while blue and yellow mean a scrabble for everything as you are last in line for screenings and press conferences, even if you have spent an hour in the queue (guess which colour mine was? Yep, yellow!) There are around 4,000 accredited journalists at the Film Festival, but the largest screening theatre holds less than 1,000 people and the press conference room a mere couple of hundred. Do the maths and you can see why tempers start to fray.

There is also a sliding scale of talent with Nicole, Leo, jury president Steven Spielberg, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and his wife Jessica Biel topping the invitation lists for the hottest parties while Sid Owen, Spencer Matthews and Nancy Dell’Olio were left to make their own entertainment.

However good the parties are, sometimes stars just want to go under the radar. The Great Gatsby’s Carey Mulligan – spotted enjoying a cosy lunch with Justin Timberlake at the Michelin pop up Electrolux Agora Pavilion following their press screening of Inside Llewyn Davis – went with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire to the family-run Michelangelo Italian restaurant in Antibes, a favourite of Brad and Angelina's, for a cosy and low key supper party on the second night of the festival.

Most moving moment was when Michael Douglas – who is phenomenal as Liberace in Behind The Candelabra – broke down in tears at the film’s press conference as he spoke of his joy at being back at work after his throat cancer battle, earning heartfelt applause from the usually hardened critics and writers.

But no matter how famous you are, sometimes it cuts no ice with French security, as Harvey Weinstein, producer of The Kings Speech and The Artist, discovered when they failed to recognise him at the Calvin Klein door and told him to wait (he stayed in his car until they let him in). And Lady Victoria Hervey suffered the ultimate celebrity humiliation when she was blasted by an irate security guard for hogging the red carpet after repeatedly being told to ‘move on’ at the Blood Ties premiere (which she wasn’t in.) That’s showbiz honey!