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The Cool Kids in Cannes: A ‘Lawless’ Afterparty With Megan Ellison and Friends

Megan Ellison and Michael Benaroya join a new blend of filmmakers, stars and high net worth producers gathering to celebrate

It’s 10 p.m. along the Croisette at the afterparty for “Lawless,” and a new side of Cannes is revealing itself.

It’s not the star-studded Armani-Chopard-Haiti benefit on Friday night, where $100,000 at auction bought you three days in Haiti with Sean Penn. 

And it’s not the exclusive A-list gathering at the Hotel du Cap down the coast, where Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair is having his annual affair.

It’s a different kind of party and a different kind of exclusive, where a new blend of filmmakers, stars and high net worth producers is gathering to celebrate the premiere of John Hillcoat’s “Lawless.”

Who’s here? The people up to their elbows in making the movies that you’re likely to care about. Most are barely over 30. Everybody's smoking, and very good looking.

Also read: 10 Producers Who Will Change Hollywood in 2012

The elusive Megan Ellison of Annapurna, 26 and dressed in a black tuxedo suit, glows with the thrill of premiering her first movie in Cannes.

Michael Benaroya (pictured) of Benaroya Pictures, 31 and another producer on “Lawless,” is almost giddymichael benaroya with excitement. Why shouldn't he be?

Both are the wealthy children of magnates north of Hollywood (Ellison from northern California, the daughter of Oracle’s Larry Ellison; Benaroya from Seattle where his family is in real estate), but they are both using their personal fortunes to make movies of substance and taste.

Also read: The Ellison Kids: Billionaire Producers Making Their Mark on Hollywood

The stars of the movie, Tom Hardy and Jessica Chastain and Shia LaBeouf linger comfortably in a room not crowded by Cannes standards. Dane DeHaan, who has a small but key part in the Prohibition-era drama, will also be in Benaroya’s next movie, “Kill Your Darlings.”

It’s a growing clique of dot-com Hollywood arrivistes, who’ve made the right connections and are putting their money where it counts. There are a few others, former dot-commer Robert Barnum, and the industry elder by comparison, Cassian Elwes.

Tom Hardy squeezes by and chats briefly about playing Forrest Bondurant; at first he was offered the middle brother role of Howard, since Ryan Gosling was slated to play Forrest. But Gosllng fell out and Hardy eventually got the role he wanted in a performance that is winning high praise. Hardy said he has lost 30 pounds since filming the movie. 

Also read: Tom Hardy in Cannes: I Love Marlon Brando, But I Worship Gary Oldman

Besides “Lawless,” Ellison is an executive producer on “Killing Them Softly,” a thriller with Brad Pitt playing an enforcer who investigates a hit at a mob poker game. It screens later in the festival.

And she rescued the latest Paul Thomas Anderson movie that had no financing until she came along. “I couldn’t believe it was not getting made,” Ellison said, noting that “Magnolia” was one of the most impactful movies of her adolescence. It’s called “The Master,” and early word is that it is a landmark work about a Scientology-like cult leader. The Weinstein Company will release it later this year.

Ellison allowed that, yes, she has been media-shy, but says she's been busy making movies. (She's got at least a dozen in development.)

Benaroya, who co-produced “Margin Call” last year, is fully financing “Kill Your Darlings,” a $4 million thriller with Daniel Radcliffe and Michael C. Hall about young beat poets Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac and a murder.

Also read: Michael Benaroya: Film Financier to Watch

And he’s also financing the $11 million “Hate Mail,” with Scarlett Johansson, Robert Pattinson and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And he executive produced “The Paperboy,” also screening in competition in Cannes. (Update: another producer calls to say that Johansson is interested but not attached, and the other actors will depend on the movie's schedule.)

That's a lot of money to be throwing down. Benaroya, apart from noting that he's only lost money on one movie he's made thus far, said he likes to gamble. 

“I’m a serious poker player," he said. "People like to underestimate me: ‘You look 25. You look like a nice guy. I’m gonna take you for everything you’ve got.’ They’re often surprised when they don’t.”

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