Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian attended Harvey Weinstein’s Cannes preview bash last night.
Cannes 2013: Harvey Weinstein presents autumn preview … but remains the star
This year’s Majestic Hotel party sees host of films showcased and stars including Nicole Kidman join producer on stage
Around Oscar time this year, cheeky host Seth Macfarlane noted that the race being now run, and the winners and losers more or less apparent, thousands of dejected actresses were at least spared the burden of saying they found Harvey Weinstein attractive. But on Friday night here in Cannes, the cyclical business of finding Harvey sexy – for both men and women – began again in a big way as the great man unveiled his slate of upcoming projects at his annual party at the Majestic Hotel.
At this same bash last year, things were far more subdued: a few cocktails, a few trailers and we were all back outside, milling about on the Croisette in pretty short order. This, by contrast, was a massive event, with around nine or 10 films being showcased and stars of all varieties joining Harvey on stage, including an elfin Rooney Mara (the lead of his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints), martial arts legend Yuen Wo-ping and the impossibly elegant Nicole Kidman, the star of his Grace Kelly biopic, Grace Of Monaco.
Harvey began the evening by thanking a string of his subordinates and junior executives and then said: “Is Nicole ready yet?” A corporate person at the back having apparently signalled yes, Harvey then said: “Ladies and gentlemen – Nicole Kidman!” We all turned around for Nicole to make her way up the aisle. Nothing. No Nicole. The person had apparently jumped the gun.
“They’re all fired. All those guys I thanked,” wisecracked Harvey after a heavy silence. “I’m gonna get a new team.” We in the press corps chortled appreciatively: and the executives matched us laugh for laugh. After Harvey was left to improv some more comments on his slate, Nicole finally showed up, made some gracious remarks about working on the movie, and then Harvey raucously commented on the elephant in the living room, as she stood beside him. Nicole Kidman was here both as a Weinstein team player and as a member of the jury, sitting in judgement on some Weinstein films in competition: James Gray’s The Immigrant and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives.
“After this evening is over,” said Harvey cheerfully, “Nicole has to return to her fellow jurors to decide which film of mine is going to win the Palme D’Or.” There was a brief pause during which we craned our necks to appreciate Nicole’s diplomatic smile. Harvey added: “I’ve certainly given Steven Spielberg enough money over the years! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Then it was time for the clips, largely trailers, which had the unfortunate effect of making almost every film look outrageously cheesy, even Ryan Coogler’s gritty Fruitvale Station, which having watched in its entirety, I know to be a different proposition from the sucrose emotion-grabber it appeared to be.
Lee Daniels’s The Butler stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gains, the African-American butler who served eight US Presidents in the White House, and had a ringside seat at historical events. Shane Salerno’s Salinger is a drama-documentary about the legendary, reclusive author – and Harvey was teasingly hinting at a big revelation. Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster was another eagerly awaited movie, and the Brit entry was the heartwarmer called One Chance with James Corden as the reality-show singing star Paul Potts. The big items, though, were undoubtedly the Cannes entries: James Gray’s Immigrant showed a tense and unpleasant scene with Joaquin Phoenix’s character menacing the timid immigrant, played by Marion Cotillard. The biggest response from the invited audience undoubtedly was for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, in which Kristin Scott Thomas’s sinister character invites her son, Ryan Gosling, to dinner with his girlfriend and proceeds to humiliate him over the size of his penis. It got laughs and gasps from the crowd – perhaps partly because we could all imagine all too clearly the eruption of violence that wouldn’t be long coming.
Last year, Harvey’s Cannes party gave us three films: Django Unchained, The Master and Silver Linings Playbook which in their various ways were hugely successful. It was the beginning of a huge year for Harvey Weinstein. So an awful lot is riding on all these. On the basis of these glimpses, the real award-frontrunners are going to be the big Cannes titles: The Immigrant and Only God Forgives. But then they are the sort of arthouse fare, like PT Anderson’s The Master, which did badly. It could be something hokey, like The Butler. But these clips could be deceiving in all sorts of ways. We shall see.