Much hype surrounds the launch of the ‘Da Vinci Code’ in Cannes, newspapers around the globe are filled with snaps of the cast pictured alongside a train. On Tuesday at Waterloo Terminal, the Eurostar high speed train was renamed The Da Vinci Code. The high speed beast of burden took stars and producers of the movie to the Cannes Film Festival for the premiere on Friday. It is reported that a total of two thousand festival cognoscenti, plus other assorted party animals and dead beat liggers will parade up the Croisette for the premiere.
The campaign to generate ink for this movie has been well organised. It smacks of a soulless example of a movie giant crossing its “T’s” and dotting its “I’s”. The campaign is smeared with all the trappings of neatly forged media partnership alongside carefully filleted tits being thrown into the gaping mouths of the hungry media; all to build an impressive pre opening dump of column inches and breathless word of mouth. Screenings have been scarce, and critics have had to wait to the last moment to see the finished film. It’s a paint by numbers campaign straight out of the box, aided by the suspected unrest in the inner sanctum of the Catholic Church. It’s a sign of the times that they didn’t rise to the bait. The Opus Dei sect have endeavoured to use the opportunity to go on an upfront membership drive. Years ago they would have been the suckers to give oxygen to the predjudices that surround their silice wearing fundamentals
This extract was taken from a Spectator feature “Blessed are the spin doctors ” by Austen Ivereigh
“In the run-up to the release of the film of The Da Vinci Code on 19 May, the communications director for the UK branch of Opus Dei, a bundle of nervous energy even in calmer times, can hardly contain himself. ‘This is going to be the most exciting month of my life,’ Jack Valero grins, as he passes me a bundle of some of the astonishing recent coverage: pages and pages from Time magazine, Le Figaro, the New York Times, Eve — upbeat coverage getting inside the ‘real’ Opus Dei, contrasted with the murderous conspirators in the Dan Brown megaseller. The articles explain the difference between numeraries (celibate members) and supernumeraries (normally married); why they joined this Catholic organisation of 86,000 worldwide, dedicated to finding God in their daily work, and how, when you meet them, they are not sinister albino monks but prayerful insurance clerks of conservative temper.
You can’t buy this sort of publicity. But should you ever find yourself cast as the central villains in a film based on a novel that has sold 40 million copies and is about to be one of the most widely watched films in history, you can, at least, enable it. When that novel takes as its premise the ‘revelation’ that for centuries the Catholic Church has covered up the ‘truth’ that Jesus Christ fathered a line of children through Mary Magdalene — and, even more astonishingly, when people actually believe this stuff — why not step out into the spotlight and let people see you as you really are? Opus Dei calls this ‘turning lemon into lemonade’ and in the weeks before the film is released it is producing it in industrial quantities”
But I digress. The Eurostar stunt has been the one stunt that has generated the most interest, helped I suspect by two publicity machines milking the media for all its worth. Of course trains have always been useful to the promotion of a movie. Huge travelling media trains were used to transverse the country and were the vehicles for the original junkets. A famous promotion train was assembled for 42nd Street. Imaginatively it was called the 42nd Street Special, and it journeyed across the country from LA to NY with a car load of stars. Bob Thomas the old AP entertainment writer told me his father had come up with idea when he worked for the Studio’s exploitation department. “It was a very Hollywood-like train that was gilded with gold and silver. The baggage cars were open and had searchlights – one on each side – so that when it would cross the country through orange groves and deserts and into other cities everybody would be talking about the searchlights that went through the previous night. The actors and the publicity people and the executives were in the club car telling jokes and singing and drinking prohibition hooch because deprived Americans weren’t lawfully drinking at that time. So that was a huge success. The train would stop at all the major cities. The actors would be available for interview with the local newspapers and then by the time it got to NY there was another big hoopla”
I suspect there will be a number of smug Da Vinci Code execs congratulating themselves on the Eurostar stunt. But it’s sobering to realise that in the world of publicity there aren’t any original ideas left.