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On the Scene: Audrey Tautou at Cannes (southland tales mention)

Friday 19 May 2006, by Webmaster

I arrived on Wednesday in the sunny, hazy late morning, and the first thing I did was take a walk along the Croisette, the strip of paved boardwalk that serves as the main throughfare for the fest. To my left was the turquoise Mediterranean, one cruise ship, two dozen yachts, a handful of sailboats, and tracts of private beach parceled out to the tall, balconied hotels across the street to my right. I was impressed. If P. Diddy took over a tropical island and decorated it as if it was the world’s biggest video store, it would look like this town. Movie posters and billboards are everywhere, advertising blockbusters (X-Men: The Last Stand), movies that are still on the horizon (Rambo IV), and movies that haven’t even been made yet (My Blueberry Nights, starring Norah Jones and directed by 2046’s Wong Kar Wai, who’ll shoot it this summer). From where I got on, the Croisette stretched down a half-mile or so — past magazine kiosks, ice cream and panini stands, a merry-go-round, and lots of palm trees — to the Palais, the monstrous festival HQ where movie stars also walk the famous red carpets to their gala premieres.

The first thing I did after I got my bearings — my colleague Lisa Schwarzbaum, a 10-year Cannes vet, very kindly showed me around — was go see a press screening of The Da Vinci Code (starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, pictured), which was using the festival to launch its plan for global takeover. (From the get-go, it’s been funny walking behind jabbering natives and suddenly hear them insert the phrase “Da Veenchi Coooh-dah.") But the big story out of Cannes so far — perhaps you’ve heard — is that the audiences here have deemed Da Vinci no good, and this was supported, as the movie’s end credits rolled, by the woman sitting next to me, the wife of a longtime Hollywood producer. “Did you like it?” she asked, in a tone of voice that made it clear she meant, “Please tell me you hated it!” She’s friends with Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola, and earlier she was predicting that Marie Antoinette, Coppola’s much-anticipated biopic starring Kirsten Dunst and world-premiering next week, would surely win the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or.

This year at Cannes — as in many years — there are only a few American films to keep an eye on. It is an international fest, after all. Aside from Da Vinci (which isn’t in competition for the Palme) and Antoinette, there’s Babel, 21 Grams director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s new film, featuring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; Fast Food Nation, an fictionalized adaptation of interlocking narratives based on Eric Schlosser’s nonfiction bestseller and directed by Before Sunset’s Richard Linklater; and Southland Tales, director Richard Kelly’s what-the-hell-is-it? follow-up to his cult breakout Donnie Darko. That’s it for the American contingent in the 20 films picked for the competition category, the fest’s most prestigious. Of foreign directors in that mix, the filmmaker with the highest profile is Talk to Her director Pedro Almodóvar, whose Volver is another of his tragi-comedies stuffed with females, including Penélope Cruz as the mother of a 14-year-old daughter.

But you’ll hear about those movies later. Let’s talk Da Veenchi Coooh-dah. My second day at the fest found me in a cab, snaking 20 minutes along the Mediterranean to a paradise called the Hotel du Cap, which, from the outside at least, is maybe what you’d get if you crossed Versailles with a cocaine kingpin’s deluxe spread in South America. I walked down through all the green and beautiful trees toward the water, where Da Vinci screenwriter Akiva Goldsman was waiting for me in a cabana overlooking the fabulous Mediterranean. He was wearing a button-down open at the neck, and laceless, sockless Converses. “Look,” he said, about the reaction to Da Vinci, smiling, “some people love it, some people don’t love it, some people are mixed on it. It’s going to be the same exact feeling people had about the book.” At the end of the convo he told me what he was doing next: two projects that have been in development forever. One of them is a “dark, dark comedy” called Tonight, He Comes. “It’s about a drunk, pissed-off superhero who decides to break up this marriage because he wants the wife,” Goldsman said. “It’s just unbelievable.”

After that I cabbed it back to the main drag and up to the seventh-floor penthouse of the Hotel Martinez, where I was ushered into a room to talk to Tautou about her role in Da Vinci. In a dark-yellow blouse and an avocado-green skirt with white whirls, and her hair cut much shorter than her ’do in the movie, she was striking, and also soft-spoken. She’s French, and since some French have criticized the festival for opening with an American blockbuster, we talked for a few minutes about how it’s very French to criticize something that’s supposed to be successful. At the end of our time, Audrey asked if she could take my picture. I wondered why, thinking that I was such a bad interviewer that she was going to give the photo to someone who could hunt me down and revoke my press pass. That wasn’t it. Apparently the Amelie star has taken a portrait of every journalist who has interviewed her over the last couple of years. So she snapped my pic. Note to publishers: I smell coffee-table book!

Today I’ll do more of the same. And I have to get my cell phone diagnosed. Yesterday my editor called my number and got a woman in Colombia. So I will check that out, in addition to other things. I hope to report back.