Between a rock and a hard place.
That best describes my meets with Sean Connery (The Rock) and Antonio Banderas (on a cobbled street up in the hills; and not what you first thought).
The Cannes Film Festival is one of the top three annual cinema celebrations in Europe (Venice and Berlin being the other two).
For cineastes and movie buffs, entertainment industry folk, media, rubberneckers, it is a festival of free screenings of art house films, premieres of latest movies, the chance to sell your pitch for the next blockbuster, star-spotting, free-loading, autograph-hunting.
The first time you fetch up at one of these circuses, your head will spin. From the weather — blows hot, blows cold — and you’ll experience that indefinable feeling of how-come-everyone-seems-to-be-headed-to-a-party-and-I’m-going-in-the-opposite-direction?
Because you are, my friend. But relax, all those penguins in suits are not off to some shindig, they are salesmen, with scripts and tapes and trailers and posters and name cards.
For every 260 pitches, maybe two will get the green light. The rest, better luck next year.
“Even if the contract has been signed in your own blood, it can still be torn up,” one movie mogul told me. And then he went back to his yacht to do some fishing, his real love.
The Croisette is the main avenue in Cannes. It is where “the bunker” sits squat and imposing and pretty much the HQ of the festival.
Then there is the old Majestic hotel, home for the duration to many publicity companies handling several feature titles and its talents.
The A-list talents are secluded in the exclusive Eden Roc in Cap d’Antibes, far away from us mere mortals.
Bigwig producers (the money men) are suite-d in the top-drawer Carlton.
Media rank lowest of the low. They can be sloppily dressed, have gratis entry to screenings, eat, drink, and party, unashamedly ask for freebies (movie premiums and merchandise), try actors’ patience with intellectual questions, and then pan the film in their reviews.
Oh what a swell party it was eh!?
Now that you have an idea of the filmfest circuit — who what where — you’re ready for your close-up.
Pack any colour clothing as long as it’s black, shoes black. Tan up your hide, because you will need very thick skin.
To keep knocking on doors, hanging about hotel lobbies, approaching mistaken identities (Excuse me are you Whoopi Goldberg?)
Decide your focus. You want to take pictures of the stars. You want to take photos of you with the stars. You want to be in pictures. You want to cream pie the most pretentious auteur.
I basically did not have a clue. Other than to meet Sean Connery. And I did. After a 36-year wait. From Dr No to Entrapment. Largely thanks to a Singapore friend in 20th Century Fox who waved me off with “Good luck, Sylvia!”.
We sat around in the rooftop terrace of Eden Roc, I chatted with Micheline Connery, the wife, (I was the only one to recognise her) until he appeared. Sean Connery went round our table, shook our hands.
The gale-force winds so rattled the table parasol I took hold of it to still it. It continued to clang and wrestle, Mr Connery asked if I was all right, I said yes, and then he grabbed my arm and said, “Oh you’re all right!”.
I messaged everyone, Sean Connery touched my arm, go away all of you.
After this topper, the rest could only go downhill all the way.
Unless perhaps on the off chance some Latin lover like Antonio Banderas gives you a peck on the cheek….
Well I did it for a best friend. Proxy. She became enamoured of the Mambo King from his first sway, and made me swear to see him above all others.
We were interviewing Senor Banderas for Desperado and I’d heard he was going to be in Evita.
So I did the sensible thing. I gave him my Che Guevara Swatch. He was so touched he hugged me. Then I printed that captured hug on a teeshirt and wore it to meet my friend. She has not spoken to me since.
From then on I collected actor autographs, and its natural progression was to have yourself photographed next to the actor.
I divined that if you planted your feet tall and square in front of the panel of actors, stars, celebrities, artistes, at their media conferences, you could score the very photo.
I must have some 130 autographs and twice that many pictures stored somewhere. All that needs be done is to match the signatures with the famous faces.