The frenzy of moviedom and publicity that is the Cannes Film Festival is upon us again. Publicity stunts play an enormous part in the festival, however much the BBC’s Victoria Lindrea may protest that this year “really is all about the films“. Certainly there’s a great selection of serious filmmakers showing at this year’s festival, but if “organisers are casting off celebrity gimmicks in favour of a vintage line-up of classic filmmakers” this year, as Lindrea asserts, I’m certain that determined stuntsters and publicists will creep up and surprise us from nowhere – publicity stunts at Cannes, as I told the Independent’s Rob Sharp (see below), help films get noticed in a busy media world.
“Whether it’s Pamela Anderson in a tight leather top, or Jerry Seinfeld in a bee costume climbing to the top of a building, one thing’s for sure – Cannes doesn’t do understatement. With thousands of studios, independent filmmakers and hangers-on all scrabbling for publicity, you really have to push the yacht out to get noticed.
“‘A film festival would not be a proper festival without a plethora of grandiose, delightful, ludicrous and attention-grabbing stunts,’ says PR consultant Mark Borkowski, author of The Fame Formula, a history of Hollywood publicists. ‘They help the films leap from the screen into the collective consciousness of the public.’
“The media circus is fuelled, in part, by the Hot d’Or, an alternative film festival held a mile down the road. This is to pornography what Cannes is to art-house cinema. In 1995, it first brought Lola Ferrari to public attention. She turned up at the festival with just two claims to fame: her 51in breasts and a pending lawsuit from the Italian sportscar manufacturer for infringement of its brand name (the press pack did the rest). The same year, when Miramax tried to publicise a Hugh Grant movie, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain, the studio built a 20ft mountain, which Grant was supposed to climb, on Canne’s Majestic Beach. As Grant was about to begin his ascent for his photocall, a Russian porn star appeared from nowhere, climbed to the top and began disrobing.
“‘Our efforts to remove her achieved far wider coverage than the movie might otherwise have expected,’ says Graham Smith, of the film’s publicists DDA.
“The studios are guilty of the odd dirty trick themselves. In 1992, muscle-bound combat heroes Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme were walking down the red carpet to promote their film Universal Soldier when they became embroiled in a slanging match. It almost descended into violence before they were pulled apart.
“In recent times, the publicity-seeking has become much more overt. In 2007, Jerry Seinfeld climbed to the top of the Carlton Hotel, dressed in a bee costume, to promote Bee Movie. Thirty minutes after checking his gear, Seinfeld slid down eight storeys, across the Croisette, to the beach below, before repeating the stunt again. Last year, Jack Black arrived by speedboat with 40 people dressed as giant pandas for the release of Kung Fu Panda, while Pamela Anderson arrived by the same method, dressed as Barb Wire, for her forgettable 1996 action film of the same name. And who can forget Sacha Baron Cohen as Borat in his mankini in 2006?
“So what of this year? Potential comes in the form of Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric, which will have its party in a local football stadium. Hopefully it’ll yield a kung-fu kick or two.”