There’s only one time of year when it’s perfectly normal to see women walking down the Croisette in 80 degrees of sunshine wearing diaphanous ball gowns and dazzling diamonds at 4pm and that is Cannes Film Festival.
I’ve been covering the festival for the last 10 years…that’s a decade of premieres, exclusive invitations to private parties on super yachts and sumptuous villas in the hills of La Californie as well as private gigs watching Duran Duran, Bruno Mars, Diana Ross and Cyndi Lauper whip up an elite crowd high on the atmosphere (and the Moet Chandon, of course) as part of the most celebrated film festival on earth.
So what is it REALLY like to be one of the 4,000 or so journalists tripping up and down the red carpet, interviewing the stars and best of all, watching them party until dawn?
When the dress code says “GALACTIC WITH A TOUCH OF DIAMONDS”
What I’ve noticed is that despite around 100 parties a night taking place over the 12-day duration, the soirées have become smaller, more intimate and a lot less swanky. Gone are the days of old when Soho House thought nothing of hiring the Chateau de la Napoule for 600 guests while Belvedere and Calvin Klein would throw their annual legendary all-nighters at which Hollywood heavyweights would happily mingle with non-A listers rather than take cover behind a velvet VIP only rope (as has started to happen more frequently.)
One unforgettable night started at the Carlton for a benefit dinner with Leonardo DiCaprio, Sean Penn, Jane Fonda, Robert De Niro and Ryan Gosling amongst many others and continued on Roberto Cavalli’s state of the art super yacht (where a leading rap singer was refused entry for refusing to remove his shoes, a cardinal sin as any yachtie knows) before moving onto a private gig at the Martinez watching Jay Kay in action with Jamiroquai before heading to a private after-party in the hills at Leo’s (yes, that Leo’s) rented villa.
The man himself bore more than a passing resemblance to his famous alter ego Jay Gatsby as he smoked a Monte Cristo cigar on the terrace while his private chef turned hotdogs on the barbecue as we all watched the sun come up across the Bay of Cannes. Meanwhile, Leo’s entourage of five close buddies surrounded him, watching for star-struck guests taking surreptitious selfies and making sure the MTAs kept a safe distance. It reminded me of a scene from the excellent HBO hit Entourage.
Other CFF highlights over the years have included a chat with Jay Z as he and Kanye West partied at Palm Beach, with both of us singing the praises of having no hair (I was bald at the time but that’s another story.) Watching Owen Wilson humbly snap selfies at the top of the red carpet steps at the Palais des Festivals at the opening premiere of Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris was only topped by witnessing him the following night desperately trying to gain entry to a beach party that had just ended. He wasn’t taking no for an answer!
Grace Jones gave an electrifying and goddess-like performance at le Baron’s pop up night at 3.14, only to storm offstage in a strop when a hapless member of the management brought a birthday cake lit with candles on stage to wish her a happy 62nd birthday back in 2010. She didn’t even look 40 in her skintight cat-suit but that clearly wasn’t the point.
‘Hey I’m Justin, pleased to meet you!’
And watching an excitable Kate Moss bop away and sing along with Diana Ross as she performed her greatest hits at last year’s Chopard party like any other super-fan was only pipped by Justin Bieber casually strolling towards me flashing a mega-watt grin accompanied by his heavy security mob to introduce himself with a cheery ‘Hey I’m Justin, pleased to meet you!’ at the glittering amfAR gala at Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc. All fairly surreal moments but I’m certainly not complaining!
This time around, I interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger about his contribution to a fascinating marine documentary, Wonders of the Sea 3D, which will be released later this year. I wasn’t sure what to expect but he was witty and self-deprecating (both qualities not usually associated with a Hollywood star of his ilk) as well as surprisingly well informed about the environment.
Elton John was on tip top form to make his first public appearance since almost dying of a mystery virus in April, accompanied by husband David Furnish and lyricist Bernie Taupin at the launch of his YouTube music video competition The Cut.
Robin Wright comically revealed how Donald Trump has stolen all the best plot lines for season 6 of House of Cards at a Women in Motion event.
All in all, it was a pretty fun filled 12 days which for once, not even the rain tried to spoil. My best film tip is The Meyerowitz Stories, a brilliantly acerbic and laugh-out-loud funny tale of a dysfunctional New York family brought together by the patriarch’s failing health. Suffice to say that Dustin Hoffman is still at the top of his game (you can catch it on Netflix.)
Most disappointing effort went to Todd Hayne’s Wonderstruck, which actually left me dumbstruck (no easy feat, by the way) despite the valiant efforts of Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams.
Karen Hockney is a journalist and author who covers Cannes Film Festival for Hello Magazine. Her latest book, The Boy in 7 Billion is available from Amazon and all good bookstores.
Looking for somewhere more low-key to hang out in on the Côte d’Azur? Check out our local bar guide HERE