Sleepless in Cannes: Moguls Haunt the Majestic Hotel Bar

Here at the bar there's a disproportionately large number of Hollywood power players, temporarily taking the place of the Russian oligarchs

Nobody sleeps in Cannes. At 1 a.m. in the bar at the Majestic Hotel, just across from the Palais de Festival, it's not that hard to distinguish the Russian teenaged models from the actresses and toned wives of producers by the height of their heels. Where are the film financing billionaires? Out on their yachts across from the hotel.

Here at the bar there's a disproportionately large number of Hollywood power players, temporarily taking the place of the Russian oligarchs. This year has a relatively low ratio of movie stars – although Zoe Saldana has just gone swanning through the space on the arm of a long-haired, open-shirted escort.

CBS Films Co-Presidents Terry Press and Wolfgang Hammer took over one corner of the bar, holding court with a half-dozen members of their team. They will be distributing “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the Coen brothers movie that is all the buzz on the Croisette and a clear contender for the Palme d'Or, and seemed in a good mood.

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Harvey Weinstein took offices at the Majestic this year and is a constant presence. At this hour he is passing through holding a small cup of salted nuts, stopped every few steps by someone eager to meet him, make an introduction and otherwise pay homage to the indie king.

Millennium's Mark Gill has escaped his own overcrowded party next door after the premiere of “As I Lay Dying,” his feature film directed by James Franco (left with Beth Grant), based on the novel by William Faulkner. The movie is an unstintingly grim and some said “haunting” telling of a grieving Southern family wound up in its own insularity, suffering from ignorance and poverty.

At an earlier cocktail party to celebrate the movie on Sunday, Franco grinned behind mirrored glasses and said he was excited about this directing assignment and his next one, also for Millennium, which was described as a multi-character story on the order of “Babel.” It shoots in July.

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In truth, Franco continues to intrigue as a man of many talents including, it seems, film financing. A Millennium executive said that Franco put up half of the $3 million budget of “As I Lay Dying” – Franco's own money. Needless to say, no one in Hollywood does that.

Among other movie insiders at the bar was Marianne Slot, Lars von Trier‘s producer who is one of the few to have seen the controversial director's upcoming work, "Nymphomania." That movie, which does not yet have distribution and is rated X-plus in Europe, stars Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard and Shia LaBeouf in apparently outrageous sex scenes.

That should be interesting, but it's unlikely to make it to Cannes. Von Trier was declared "persona non grata" here after claiming to understand Adolph Hitler and joking about being a Nazi at the official press conference in 2011 for his competition film, "Melancholia."

Asked about this, Slot smiled meekly and responded: “He's an artist.”

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Outside the hotel lobby, a gaggle of paparazzi stand permanently, it seems, behind a red cordon, waiting for a glimpse of a movie star. Instead they have a view of a huge insignia for “Hunger Games.”

Meanwhile on the other side of Cannes, the founder of IMDb Col Needham held court at his annual dinner for film lovers and influencers. The guests included Adrien Brody and Danish director Nicolas Winding-Refn (“Drive”), whose film, “Only God Forgives,” will debut in competition this week. (Needham, above left, with Sharon Waxman and Winding-Refn.)

Brody was excited to talk about his upcoming film with director Paul Haggis, "Third Person," partly underwritten by the Saudis. And Winding-Refn, with Danish understatement, talked about how the producers of his violent “Drive” didn't believe in it, or him, and wanted to walk away from their commitment to the film.

His new work seems equally disturbing, starring his go-to actor Ryan Gosling as drug-smuggler thriving in Bangkok's criminal underworld, compelled by his mother to find and kill whoever is responsible for his brother's recent death.

But that, dear Cannes lovers, is not until Wednesday. And until then: Champagne.