The Crazy: John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino
The first words to greet me at the Cannes Film Festival were: “Welcome to The Crazy.” I assumed it was an exaggeration. Now, six amazingly crazy days later, it seems more like a huge understatement.
Triple A-list celebs, £50,000-a-ticket parties, £6,000-a-night hotel rooms, star-studded super yachts, a submarine – and even trips into space.
In just a few days I have partied with John Travolta and Uma Thurman, sipped champagne with studio executives and been invited to a private bash with Michael Jackson’s dad.
Crazy doesn’t come close – and it is little wonder the biggest names in showbusiness make Cannes a must.
La Croisette is the hub of activities. The palm-fringed seafront avenue is adorned with pricey designer boutiques, five star hotels and glamorous eateries.
Number 72 is the ultimate place to be seen. As well as eyeing up the talent, for £15 you can buy an egg muffin, three gulps of orange juice and a small coffee for a hangover-busting brekkie.
Money permeates every inch of Cannes, from the glamour of the premieres to parties where stars are paid just to saunter down the red carpet, then leave by the back door, without even catching a film.
Not so for John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino, who threw a bash at the Majestic Barriere hotel’s beach bar for the 20th anniversary of Pulp Fiction. They had a private dinner party on the beach, with champagne cocktails.
Uma sat in a corner of the bar looking at her phone while, perspiring slightly in a black leather jacket, Travolta happily tells me: “I love Cannes, it’s a brilliant place to be, there’s a great buzz.”
But fellow guest and Hollywood legend Michael Madsen reckons it’s lost a little of its sparkle. “It’s very different to how it was 20 years ago. It’s not as mad. Back in the day we had a riot.”
It still seems plenty riotous to me as minutes later Tarantino happily encouraged people to smoke pot during a screening, saying: “If anyone wants a joint, rip it out and light up. Tell them I said it.”
And that’s the other constant in Cannes... drugs. They play a significant role here. At one party there was a large mound of cocaine, the drug of choice, just piled on a table.
One producer says: “It’s easy to get coke here if you are rich, there is an unlimited supply.” A gram normally sells for £100 – double the price in the UK.
The seedier side of Cannes lies just beneath the surface. Prostitutes, hedge funders, drug dealers and desperate wannabes are all hoping to make a quick buck or get their big break.
Young women in short PVC skirts hover around older, wealthy-looking men. “We come from Paris” one says. “It’s a good place to meet rich men.”
Up to 200 escorts, who charge up to £25,000, are thought to come and go from big hotels every day.
Then of course there are the young women desperate for film careers. Many hope to find fame. But the reality is bleaker. One producer says: “We see this happen all the time. It’s sad really – it can become quite embarrassing to watch.”
But for many of the big shots who come here, the celebrities are only “good for a selfie”. Every year hundreds of investors flock to the Cote d’Azur to gamble on new films.
Producer Craig Tuohy says: “I don’t care about the red carpet. For me, it’s about business, it’s about hustling.” There are plenty who do care about the red carpet, however, and there is lots of money to be made both on and off it.
Every year L’Oreal has a massive promotional campaign with Cheryl Cole and Lara Stone turning up to further the brand. Their big moment is walking the carpet.
A pen of 200 photographers and film crew, all in bow ties, are placed on the entrance to La Palais conference centre. When the cameras stop flashing, Cole and Stone leave through a back entrance and on to their next appearance. And, come rain or shine, dedicated autograph hunters will be there to greet them.
Most will wait outside the top hotels like The Martinez and The Carlton where rooms start at £600 a night and finish at £6,000.
This year Cara Delevingne, Kylie Minogue and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley were all staying at The Martinez. Kylie enjoyed the breakfast buffet downstairs in the dining room but Delevingne is said to have spent hundreds ordering room service. George Clooney booked out a £1,000 a night suite at Le Mas Candille and apparently had six trips to the hotel spa.
Leonardo DiCaprio and his girlfriend Toni Garn hung out at a huge mansion in the Cannes hills.
But most of the super fans stay in a campsite on the edge of town. It is a stark contrast to life for the super-rich party goers. The Amfar Cinema Against Aids charity benefit is one of the biggest bashes with tickets at £50,000 each. It takes place at the luxury Hotel du Cap where rooms will set you back £755 and a private villa is £12,500 a night.
At this year’s bash a guest paid £600,000 to be sent into space on Virgin Galactic with actor Leonardo DiCaprio. A total of £23million was spent at the auction.
There can be up to 30 parties a night, many going on till dawn. Then there are the after parties. Most B-listers end up in nightclub Gotha where they receive complimentary champagne, while A-listers will normally be seen on a yacht or private mansion party.
This year DiCaprio led the pack, opening his mansion for a Great Gatsby- themed after party, where the chosen ones drove through two security gates, giving a secret password.
Hollywood heart-throb Jason Statham found himself in Italy following last Sunday’s raucous Expendables party on superyacht The Mojo after persuading a few pals to join him on the trip.
It is easy to see why security is one of the biggest expenses for the festival, with an estimated £10million spent on it. During the private party with Travolta, three security guards patrolled the bar, one leading a fierce-looking dog.
The actors also had their own bodyguards close by and Travolta, Thurman and Tarantino were driven 200 feet from the bar to the cinema screen in a blacked out limo just to avoid the crowds.
And when Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford paraded down La Croisette in Russian tanks to promote The Expendables 3, security was so tight organisers had to assure the French government the tanks were not being brought in to invade the country. The total cost came close to £2million.
Michael Jackson’s dad Joe invited me to party at the Oxygen Villa in the Cannes hills which has it’s own pool, bar and looks out onto the Mediterranean.
There are a string of oddballs and hangers-on who would be unlikely to get onto Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s blue yacht, The Octopus.
It has its own submarine and even holds another, smaller yacht inside it. Harvey Weinstein, Jane Fonda and Sharon Stone were all invited. Across the bay Kylie performed in a beach marquee as the champagne flowed for the 25th anniversary of Magnum.
But while the festival brings in the superstars, it also appears to attract a whole host of oddballs.
Outside the JW Marriott hotel, a man in tight Lycra and diamond bling says he’s dog-sitting for Sharon Stone’s poodle Eva. It seems an unlikely story.
But then again, who knows? This is The Crazy, after all…