THE CANNES RED CARPET RIDE: The Kind, The Cruel and The Ugly
PART 1: THE CRUEL
It was the 43rd Cannes Film Festival and for our new Krzysztof Kieslowski film The Double Life of Veronique, much of the financing would come from pre-sales. We had already sold the biggest territories, so I took one of the red-carpet passes to see Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams. The red carpet was scary enough with a group. Alone required courage and new shoes.
Most of my income went towards my overpriced Paris apartment in the 6th so a colleague loaned me a sexy white dress with a low-cut back and I bought some white strappy mules in a shop below the Gray d’Albion. Not Louboutin, but they’d do. It was chilly, so I threw on a black linen jacket.
I shuffled with the crowd past the photographer pool and up the 20 red-carpeted steps. At the top I took the door on the left to avoid some of the spotlight. But that’s where things went horribly wrong. Two tuxedoed bouncers tssked, wagging their index fingers in that French manner. With a coquettish smile I turned, slipping my jacket down to show them my dress. One of them pointed down to my new shoes, “Pas de pantouffles.”
“Ce sont pas des pantouffles!” I argued. They were calling my shoes slippers! Rejected, but mercifully allowed to wait there until everyone left, I coolly headed back down against the side rail hoping the remaining fans assumed I was staff or press. But nothing could ease my mortification. And I never got to see Dreams.
PART 2: THE UGLY
Krzysztof Kieslowski had won the 1989 Cannes Jury Prize for his critically acclaimed Thou Shalt Not Kill from his Decalogue series, launching the Polish director in Western Europe. Ever grateful, Kieslowski asked the Cannon Films buyer Leonardo de la Fuente (and my boss at the time), to produce his next film.
We broke off from Cannon and formed Sideral Productions. Kieslowski’s new script The Double Life of Veronique was originally written with Andie MacDowell in mind. However, MacDowell had accepted a conflicting role in Hudson Hawk so we held an open casting to find a new leading lady, during which Krzysztof discovered Irène Jacob. The resulting beautiful film was selected in Official Competition in the 44th Cannes Film Festival.
Being a producer and also having a small role in the film, I was part of the red carpet cast and crew. We had all assembled to walk the red carpet when there was a commotion. Apparently Irène had run away upset. Moments later, we all reassembled and walked the red carpet, stopping for the flashing cameras, then up the steps, sans incident.
However, later I would learn from the make-up artist what had caused the disruption. It was me! It turns out that Irene felt I looked better than her for the red carpet. We had only worked briefly together as I had a very minor role. But somehow the lead actress, who went on to win the Best Actress Award, was afraid of me, the girl with the slippers.
PART 3: THE KIND
During the 45th Cannes Film Festival, I was the lead actress of Dark at Noon, in Official Competition. Directed by Raul Ruiz and co-starring John Hurt, David Warner and Didier Bourdon, it was the culmination of months of script rewrites, rehearsals, shooting on location in Portugal and post-production recording of me singing for voice-over.
To prepare, Raul Ruiz, considered the Chilean Buñuel, also suggested I read some surreal literature. Having a degree in French, I was already well versed in Sartre, Breton, Cocteau, etc. so I read Labyrinths by Jorges Luis Borges for some South American surrealism.
But two months shooting in Portugal with the genius French comedian Didier Bourdon and Royal Academy chums John Hurt and David Warner was more than enough surrealism for anyone. Word from the wise, do not tell Hurt and Warner that farts make you laugh. Their antics will have you in tears.
During filming we all became close. There were some affairs as is de rigueur on film shoots. I even knitted a tiny sweater for the newborn son of John and his lovely American wife Joan and we exchanged Christmas cards for years.
But I will never forget our Cannes red carpet when all of us dressed in formal wear loaded into the limo to be driven less than two blocks to the Palais with paparazzi cameras flashing and fans shouting and John looked me in the eye and with a familial grin said, “Now, this is surreal.”