As we gear up for Cannes, the HFPA’s Elisabeth Sereda takes a look at previous festival misbehaviour and expects more to come.
With Berlin and Sundance over and as we gear up for Cannes, the talk among the international press is not so much what films are going to be shown (we can look that up) as to who is going to misbehave in the most entertaining way. LaBeouf walking out of the press conference for Lars Von Trier’s ‘Nymphomaniac’ after answering a reporter’s question about the film’s sex scenes with a quote from French actor and former soccer player Eric Cantona (“When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.”) can be interpreted as a desperate plight for trying to be interesting by an actor who is not known for his eloquence, but it was hardly shocking. Actors and directors have walked out of interviews as long as one can remember. Especially at festivals. It was his head-in-a-paper-bag appearance that same evening on the red carpet that got the most coverage. With holes cut out for his eyes, he (or an assistant) had written „I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE“ on the bag.
Quentin Tarantino is still famous for not mincing words which he proved at various press conferences in Cannes and other festivals, but very few people remember him getting physical way back in 1992, when he slugged a security guard before the screening of a Belgian film he was trying to get in to: “I am trying to cleverly push my way in and all of a sudden this French guy with a tuxedo and a red bow tie pushes me in the chest,” said Tarantino, according to Reuters. “I am from Los Angeles. We have the LAPD there. These red bow tie guys don’t show me anything. So I took a swing at the guy.” Tarantino, not as famous then, avoided major press coverage of the fight which was joined by his then-girlfriend and had to be broken up by five other guards. He laughingly told the story in 2004 while promoting ‚Kill Bill – Vol.2’ at the festival. Many others have displayed anger and gotten into verbal altercations with reporters, like Bruce Willis (before he mellowed) who called a question idiotic and suggested to the man asking it to go back to journalism school. This generated mostly laughter from the attending press: the man’s question was indeed idiotic and Willis had just simply put him in his place.
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Others have shown their sense of humor when confronted with inane questions. When Brad Pitt promoted ‚Fight Club’ at the Venice festival in 1999, the first question was about the actor’s new haircut. „What a way to start a press conference about this film“ Pitt responded, „really deep question“. The mood went from ridiculous to nasty once the press did ask about the violence in the film: „Man, this is ugly“ Pitt mumbled, away from but clearly audible by the open microphone. He should have gotten an inkling of what was up at the premiere. As he told Entertainment Weekly later: “I remember Fight Club playing at the Venice Film Festival at a midnight screening. And Edward Norton and I, after having a few drinks, were sitting next to the president who’s running the whole thing. We’re sitting up in the balcony. It’s subtitled, and we are the only f—ers laughing. It gets to one of Helena [Bonham Carter's] scandalous lines — “I haven’t been f—ed like that since grade school!” — and literally, the guy running the festival got up and left. Edward and I were still the only ones laughing. You could hear two idiots in the balcony cackling through the whole thing.”
Berlin and Cannes may have had their share of ridiculousness but it is the official press conferences in Venice that no serious journalist attends for work purposes. We all go, usually straight after the 9 am screening for a comedy break. This is where a Spanish guy who clearly hadn’t seen Steven Spielberg’s ‚Saving Private Ryan’ asked the director why he hadn’t shown the use of condoms for safe sex in his film. The baffled Spielberg stuttered: „But…but there is no sex in my film.“ This didn’t deter the guy. He wanted to start a discussion on safe sex and he damn well did. For another two minutes or so. This was shortly before yet another festival-hair-question was posed to Jude Law who by then had already started battling a receding hairline. Venice is, after all, the place where good looking movie stars get heckled, ridiculed and even proposed to. Just ask George Clooney who treats his appearances in Venice every other year no differently from ‚The Jimmy Kimmel Show’. After years of dodging the girlfriend question with his well known wit, he ran out of escape plans when a scantily clad Italian woman – who bore a striking resemblance to Elisabetta Canalis long before that one was even in the picture – asked him how much longer he intended to stay single and then proposed to him. She had come prepared and brought along a friend dressed as a catholic priest. The star went along with the charade and participated in a mock wedding in the press room. Clooney got angry only once. When a reporter attacked him for doing Nespresso-commercials (their parent company Nestle is considered an evil corporation by some) he countered with his own research on the fair trade practices of the coffee firm. And then chastised the reporter for not having done the same.
As Cannes has just released their line-up, we can look forward to more „performances“ by actors and press. Yes, there will be woman who will want to Channing all over his Tatum and men who will inquire as to the status of Sienna Miller’s relationship (both there for Bennett Miller’s „Foxcatcher“). Nicole Kidman, who has the opening night with „Grace of Monaco,“ surely is not looking forward to being asked about the state of her marriage – fine, but not according to the US-rags. Robert Pattinson will look helplessy to his director David Cronenberg and co-star Julianne Moore before not answering any questions about a girlfriend, and Mia Wasikowska who will attend for the same film („Maps to the Stars“) will breathe a sigh of relief that all the attention is focused on him instead of her relationship with Jesse Eisenberg. Tommy Lee Jones, director of „The Homesman“ will frustrate journalists with non-answers, and Annette Bening and Berenice Bejo who will travel to Cannes for Michel Hazanavicius’ „The Search“ will look as beautiful as they are bored. And someone somewhere along the Croisette will cause a scandal that fills the papers for days. It always happens. Here is the link to the Cannes lineup: http://www.festival-cannes.com/en/article/60533.html