Movies

48 Hours At The Cannes Film Festival: Red Carpets, Cognac, ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ And Matt Dillon

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A few years back, a low-budget horror-comedy directed by Tom Lennon and Ben Garant called Hell Baby was shot in my house. In addition to Lennon and Garant (who also acted in the movie), the film starred a bunch of modern comedy favorites — Keegan Michael Key, Rob Corddry, Leslie Bibb, Michael Ian Black, Kumail Nanjiani, Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Riki Lindhome, and David Wain, just to name a few. Because the film was so low-budget, there wasn’t money to relocate me during the weeks of shooting they did in the house, nor was there money for all the actors to have trailers, so I lived in the house for the duration of the shoot and my kitchen became the make-shift makeup room and the place where many of the actors in the film hung out when they had downtime on-set. Thus, I was fortunate to have had many conversations with these folks — all of whom were just delightful, by the way — during this time.

One of the conversations I distinctly recall having with the Hell Baby cast centered around walking red carpets. It’s something that I’ve been mildly fascinated by for years, perhaps because I’m not someone who particularly enjoys having his picture taken. I’ve always thought that if I were somehow ever nominated for an Oscar, I’d probably ask if I could just enter the Dolby (formerly Kodak) theater through a side door or something to avoid having to do the red carpet walk. The whole spectacle, while somewhat fascinating to me, makes me uncomfortable just thinking about it.

Anyway, it was during this conversation with the Hell Baby cast that someone — I’m 99% sure it was Tom Lennon — declared that no sane person in Hollywood actually enjoys walking the red carpet, and that the only people who truly do enjoy it are psychopaths. This has stuck with me over the years and has sort of validated my loathing the mere thought of it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I received an invitation to attend a screening at the Cannes Film Festival via Rémy Martin, one of the festival’s official sponsors for the 15th year in a row. I’d never previously been to Cannes, for the festival or otherwise, though I’ve long been intrigued by the idea of going — it struck me as a spectacle I’d like to take in for myself and see with my own eyes at some point in my life, though I’ve had little interest in attending it as a journalist. No, if I were going to go, I wanted to go as just a filmgoer, someone there to see that year’s crop of films, and maybe drink and party a little bit too. (I mean, why not, right? When in Rome and whatnot.)

Attending Cannes as a filmgoer, however, comes with a caveat: in order to attend a screening at the Palais, where all the films are screened, all men must be dressed in formal attire — preferably a tuxedo, and a bow tie is an absolute requirement. And … wait for it … the only way to enter the Palais is to walk the red carpet, arguably the world’s most notable and intense red carpet, one littered with photographers from around the world screaming out things in countless different languages. This prospect did not thrill me, to say the least. But after giving it some thought, I said “fuck it.” My desire to take in the Cannes Film Festival was outweighed by anxiety over walking the red carpet. What follows is a bit of a running travel diary of my 48 hours or so at Cannes, and my travel across the Atlantic to get there.

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Saturday, May 12, 9:00 pm: I board a British Airways flight to London. In London I’ll have a connecting flight to Nice, France, where I’ll take a car to Cannes, which is about 30 minutes away. Thankfully, I’m in business class, since the flight to London from New Orleans is a ten-hour overnight flight and I’m 6’6” — flying in coach on short domestic flights is often an awful experience, much less long, international flights. One of these days I’m going to get around to suing the airlines for discriminating against tall people. Having to pay extra to not be utterly miserable on a flight is bullshit.

9:20 pm: A flight attendant comes around and hands out little menu selection sheets for all of us on board to select what we’d like for dinner and breakfast. I can’t find a pen to fill mine out, so I ask the guy sitting across the row from me if I could borrow his. When he turns to hand me his pen, I suddenly realize that the guy sitting next to me is Matt Dillon. I haven’t even taken off on my initial flight to Cannes yet and I’ve already had an encounter with a movie star. This is going to be fun.

9:25 pm: From doing some quick internet sleuthing (yes, I just Googled “Matt Dillon” while sitting next to Matt Dillion) I discover that Matt Dillon has been shooting a movie in New Orleans (Fonzo) and is starring in a film premiering at Cannes; Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built, a serial killer movie reportedly inspired by Donald Trump. I get excited over the prospect of maybe Matt Dillon and I having some sort of a bonding moment on the plane. Maybe we could hit it off and hang out together at Cannes?! We could talk about New Orleans! I could give him restaurant recommendations, and tell him where to go to get the best gumbo in town (my house). The possibilities for a blossoming new friendship are very exciting to me.

9:35 pm: We’re still on the ground waiting to take off and I can’t help but coyly spy on Matt Dillon every chance I get. I feel terrible about it, but I can’t help myself — this is someone who’s been in my life as a film star for over 30 years now. Some of my first film memories were movies that he starred in during the ’80s — films like Rumble Fish and The Outsiders. Later in the ’90s came Singles, one of my favorite films from that era with one of my favorite soundtracks, and Wild Things. Later came There’s Something About Mary, one of my favorite comedy films of all time. And I can hardly believe he’s sitting next to me on a ten-hour flight as we, a couple of big shots, make our way to the Cannes Film Festival.

9:40 pm: Still waiting to take off. My new future best friend Matt Dillon has been playing around on Instagram for a good 15 minutes now. (Movie stars — they’re just like us!) Put it like this, if Matt Dillon follows you on Instagram, there’s a good chance he watches your Instagram stories.

9:45 pm: We’re on the runway to take off and I just remembered that a woman I once briefly dated in New York once told me that she was also dating Matt Dillon at the same time we were dating. So it’s possible that Matt Dillon and I once shared a lover — at the same point in time! Perhaps this could be my “in” with him? Should I casually ask Matt Dillon about this nice lady? I should probably not.

10:30 pm: Matt Dillon has now spent a good 20 minutes flipping through the in-flight movie menu trying to decide what to watch. (Once again, movie stars — they’re just like us!) After carefully considering the same 40 or so movies over and over — at various points giving serious consideration to Lady Bird, Atomic Blond, and The Shape Of Water — he finally settles on The Death of Stalin, which, coincidentally, is the same film I decided to watch (along with Atomic Blonde). Matt Dillon and I are so gonna be best friends!

10:45 pm: Matt Dillon brought plenty of reading material for the long flight: a copy of that day’s New York Times, a Mark Bowden book, Hue 1968, and an old, tattered book on jazz, The Story of Jazz by Marshall Stears. He likes to read just like me! And we also ordered all of the same things for dinner. Matt Dillion and I have so much in common!

12:00 pm: It’s time to spread out and go to sleep, and while I’m basically dressed in pajamas — a comfy, loose-fitting t-shirt and Adidas track pants — Matt Dillon is wearing brown boots, jeans, and a button-down shirt with the sleeves cuffed about mid-forearm. I feel sorry for him, as this doesn’t like very comfortable sleeping attire. If I had not checked my bags, perhaps I could have let him borrow something comfortable to sleep in, offering a chance for us to bond in the process? Nonetheless, he zonked out pretty quick. And Matt Dillon does not snore, just FYI.

Sunday, May 13, 12:25 pm: We land in London at Heathrow Airport and this is where Matt Dillon ceases being a normal person like me and goes back to being a movie star. As soon as we exit the plane, an official-looking man in a suit is there to whisk him off to wherever he needs to be next, while the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves in one of the world’s most chaotic airports. I feel kind of sad.

2:30 pm: Well, wouldn’t you know it, Matt Dillon is on my flight from London to Nice as well. Maybe we can share a car to Cannes when we land in Nice? Stranger things have happened. Certainly, he must recognize me from the previous flight and think, “Oh that’s the guy who sat next to me on the other flight. He must be a big shot, just like me.” You just never know!

5:15 pm: Our plane is approaching Nice to land and holy crap is the south of France beautiful from the sky! The water is a shade of blue I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. And, of course, there are big, fancy yachts everywhere. The whole scene looks like something straight out of an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

5:30 pm: As our plane is just about to touch the ground in Nice, the pilot suddenly pulls up and aborts the landing and we immediately go almost straight up very rapidly. Everyone gasps and many look utterly horrified, including Matt Dillon (another movie stars are just like us moment). A minute or so later, the pilot apologizes and says that there was a bad wind swirling on the ground in Nice and that he made a last-second call to not land the plane. He goes on to say that we’ll circle around the area and attempt another landing shortly. The specter of death now hangs in the air. I can’t help but think about how if things end terribly that I’ll at least be remembered for having died alongside Matt Dillon as we made our way to Cannes. This is oddly comforting.

6:15 pm: We land safely in Nice. Once again, Matt Dillon has a personal escort/concierge waiting at the gate to whisk him away from the rest of us peasants. And as I’m making my way to the airport to the baggage area, I get a text from British Airways saying that my luggage didn’t get packed on the plane and was still on the ground in London. Fuck me.

6:30 pm: I fill out some paperwork at the airline’s baggage help desk and am assured by the agent at the desk that my luggage will be delivered to me later that night. I insist that it is, as my bags contain the formal wear that I’ll need the following night, and that without my bags the only clothes I have available to me are pretty much the clothes I’m currently wearing — the aforementioned t-shirt and Adidas track pants. I reiterate how screwed I will be if I don’t get them by at least the next afternoon, and once again, the lady at the baggage desk insists that my bags will be delivered later that night.

7:15 pm: Trying to get to the hotel I’m staying at — the Majestic, which is in the heart of the festival staging area — is a nightmare. Everything is an absolute shitshow, with streets blocked everywhere due to the influx of people and heightened security after the terror attacks in France over the past few years. Ultimately, my driver has to drop me a few blocks from my hotel because getting close to it seems impossible.

7:25 pm: I’ve arrived at my hotel and have to pass through the equivalent of an airport security setup before I can approach the entrance of the hotel. When I finally enter the hotel, looking like I’ve just come from the gym, the lobby is packed with men in tuxedos and women in big, elaborate formal dresses (like the one below). There are also paparazzi running around everywhere. I need a drink.

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8:00 pm: I’ve made it to my room, which has an incredible view of the Mediterranean from the balcony, but I’m hungry and desperately want a drink. However, I’m definitely not dressed to go anywhere in Cannes. So I find a Steak & Shake a few blocks from my hotel and grab a burger and fries to-go there. (Side note: Steak & Shake is very popular at Cannes, which is very funny to me.) And thankfully, my friends from Rémy Martin had a small bottle of their cognac waiting for me in my room when I arrived, so I watched the sunset over the sea eating a burger and sipping cognac on my balcony. Suddenly things weren’t so bad.

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10:00 pm: I’m going to bed and my luggage still has yet to arrive. I call the front desk to let them know it’s being delivered tonight and they said they’ll hold it downstairs and I can come to get it in the morning.

Monday, May 14, 10:30 am: Holy shit I slept for like 12 hours. This hotel has incredible blackout curtains. Man do I feel amazing. Time to go down to the front desk to get my luggage. I’ve got to be ready to go to walk the red carpet and attend the screening of the new Spike Lee film with the Remy Martin folks at 6:00 pm.

11 am: I go to the front desk of my hotel and am told that they never received my luggage. I call the airline and am told that my bag is still on the ground at Heathrow but that it will “probably” get there sometime later in the day. I am screwed.

12:00 pm: The Rémy Martin crew puts me in touch with a local fixer/concierge of sorts, who arranges to get me set up with a tux for later that evening. This is a minor miracle, mind you, as I’m a large human and finding clothes to fit me in the U.S. is a headache, much less in France.

2:30 pm: I find out that the screening I’m going to attend tonight is for Spike Lee’s newest film, BlacKkKlansman. Cannes is weird in that they don’t release the screening schedule until a few days prior to the start of the festival. So when I’d originally planned to attend a screening on this particular night I’d no idea what I’d be seeing. It was a total crapshoot. It could have been a weird, experimental film for all I knew. I guess I got lucky.

4:00 pm: I pick up my tuxedo and try it on and it fits perfectly. I hate “dressing up” but I have to admit this feels a little fun, like I’m Pierce Brosnan or something. Who am I?

6:00 pm: I meet the crew who I’ll be attending the screening with in the lobby of my hotel. From there we walk roughly a 1/4 mile to the Palais, where the screenings are held. There’s a long security line we need to make our way through, and across the street, behind barricades, are hundreds of people — regular people — set up on ladders and platforms taking photos of everyone, hoping to get a glimpse of a celebrity. This is both fascinating and horrifying to me.

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6:15 pm: We are advised to not pull out a phone to take a picture while on the red carpet, lest we risk being tackled and having our phone confiscated, or something.

6:30 pm: After making it through security, we now are in a crowd gathered around the entrance to the red carpet, waiting our turn to be called. The whole scene reminds me of what it’s like outside of a New York City club, where a doorman decides who gets in and when. There’s a hierarchy here — major celebs are the higher priority, of course, and are allowed to walk the red carpet solo. We will walk it as a group and we were briefed to be prepared to be yelled at by photographers. “Don’t be surprised if they curse at you in multiple languages and ask you to move along to get off the red carpet because they don’t recognize you and they’re bored by you.” Okay then!

6:40 pm: Someone points out that Jane Fonda is standing a few feet to my left. I turn to look and there she is, looking stunning at 80, and also looking very serious.

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6:41 pm: Shortly after spotting Jane Fonda, I notice Naomi Campbell also standing and waiting. No big deal, just me, Jane Fonda and Naomi Campbell waiting our turn to walk the red carpet at Cannes.

6:42 pm: It suddenly dawns on that my new best friend Matt Dillon may be out here. Hoping he sees me and thinks, “Oh there’s that cool guy from my flights over here.” We’ll both be out here wearing bow ties, like a couple of big shots.

6:45 pm: Watching Jane Fonda and Naomi Campbell walk the red carpet is the best live show I’ve seen in years. It’s actually kind of mesmerizing to watch them, two seasoned red carpet-walking pros hitting all the marks and giving the photographers everything they want. It’s a ballet of sorts, and they are master performers.

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6:50 pm: Our group — there are 10 of us, I think — is finally summoned forward and we’re on the red carpet. Most of the photographers put their cameras down when they realize that none of us are famous. Desperately wanting to just get through this, I charge forward straight ahead at a brisk pace. Up ahead is a steep set of stairs, and I pretty much just lock eyes on it and head forward. When I reach the stairs, all I can think is “oh god please don’t trip and fall, please don’t trip and fall.” When I reach the top of the stairs, I say fuck it and decide to go rogue and try to take a picture with my phone of the spectacle down below. The view of the entire red carpet from the top of the stairs is a fabulous one, so I decide to take a chance. Just as I’m about to snap a photo, a security person runs over and pulls my arm down. “No photos,” he snaps at me. I apologize and plead ignorance and somehow avoid being tossed in Cannes Film Fest jail or having my phone taken away. The photo I’m left with is this one.

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7:20 pm: Once the theater is filled and everyone is seated, the cast of the film and Spike Lee make their way down the red carpet. Their entrance is broadcast on the giant screen inside the theater. Spike Lee is constantly flashing knuckle bracelets he’s wearing, one that reads “love” and another that reads “hate.” When they finally make their way into the theater they are greeted with a standing ovation.

7:30 pm: The movie begins.

9:45 pm: I am underwhelmed by BlacKkKlansman. I honestly think I’d have walked out if I’d be seeing it in a regular theater setting. To me, it was just too ridden with cliches and Southern racist stereotypes. It was also too long. And that’s a shame because it’s such a great true story. I just think it could have been done so much better. Something about Adam Driver also irks me and so I’m maybe a little predisposed to not liking anything he’s in.

The crowd in the theater, however, seems to love it. They gave Spike Lee and the cast a standing ovation for a few minutes after it was over, and the film went on to win the festival’s Grand Prix prize.

1:00 am: Wrapping up a fabulous post-screening dinner with the Rémy Martin crew where, surprise, much Rémy Martin was consumed (including some of the limited edition XO batch that was made for Cannes with a bottle designed as an homage to classic movie theaters). And wine. And Champagne. A considerable about of wine and champagne. We’re supposed to be going to a party on the rooftop of some hotel. However, my jet-lag is real and I’m fading fast, but I rally in the hope that maybe Matt Dillon will be there.

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2:30 am: This place is a little too packed and I’ve been waiting 15 minutes to merely put in an order for a drink. Also, Matt Dillon is nowhere to be found (yes, I looked for him).

3:00 am: I get back to my hotel room to discover that my luggage has finally been delivered to me. This amuses me.

Tuesday, May 15th, 5:00 pm: — I slept almost past noon (have I mentioned that the Majestic hotel has incredible black-out curtains?) and it’s time for me to head to the airport to hop on a flight to Paris. In the time I’m waiting in the lobby for a car to pick me up, I spot John Gotti Jr. holding court for a bunch of fawning admirers, saw Emilia Clarke flutter by like a butterfly on speed, and overheard Michael Madsen compliment a guy on his neck tattoo. I’m told I somehow missed Pierce Brosnan strolling through, but I guess that’s why he’s perfectly cast for heist movies — dude can slip by easily.

POSTSCRIPT: A few days after Cannes, I was browsing through the Getty Images archive looking at photos from the red carpet at Cannes. It was then that I spotted a few photos of Matt Dillon — not wearing a bow tie on the red carpet. I can’t emphasize enough how remarkable this strikes me because of how many times I’d heard that this was a hard and fast rule; every man has to have a bow tie on if they are to walk the red carpet at Cannes! And there wasn’t a single man I saw there who wasn’t wearing a bow tie. Yet, here is Matt Dillion on the red carpet, obviously not wearing a bow tie.

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Matt Dillon is obviously way too cool to be friends with me.

Uproxx was hosted at the Cannes Film Festival by Rémy Martin. You can read our press trip/hosting policy here.

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