Cannes Film Festival Report: Robert De Niro Shows Up for Closing Night

Even though the 61st edition of the Cannes Film Festival officially ends this weekend–and most of the buyers and sellers have left town (a lot with nothing to show for it)–the stars (not to mention the sun which has finally come out after too many gloomy days) can still be found.

Robert De Niro, star of Barry Levinson’s closing night Hollywood satire What Just Happened?, is arriving today and will be put to work at Sunday’s closing ceremony by presenting the biggie–the prestigious Palme d’Or–for best of fest as voted on by a jury led by Sean Penn and including actress Natalie Portman and director Alfonso Cuaron, among others.

What Just Happened? is one of many films still for sale as it went home from January’s Sundance Fest without one. It’s been reported Levinson has re-edited the film for it’s Cannes unveiling Sunday, so critics–thinking they may have seen it already in Sundance–will have to go again to see how he has fixed the poorly reviewed film about the film industry.

A walk through the market finds several others in the same boat: some still without (at least announced ) U.S. distribution deals including My Life In Ruins, a reunion between Nia Vardalos and her My Big Fat Greek Wedding producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman. They have served up a Love Boat-like story in which Vardalos plays a tour guide in Greece, trying to balance romance and a group of looney supporting players. Sound familiar? They are clearly trying to bottle the Greek Wedding box office magic a second time, but no takers as of yet

As for the aforementioned Jury, some of them–like Portman and actress Alexandra Maria Lara–turned up Thursday evening a few miles out of town at Le Moulins Des Mougins restaurant for the glamorous hot ticket event of Cannes: Cinema Against AIDS, which Weinstein Co. head Harvey Weinstein started 14 years ago at Cannes to raise money to fight AIDS. Last year, they made $7.5 million, a record which they hope to at least match this year despite tougher economic times.

Harvey used the occasion to lobby the jury members present to vote for Che, the nearly four and a half hour movie(s) he saw the night before and labeled “a masterpiece, the most ambitious project I have seen in 25 years of coming to Cannes”. Sounds like he’s in the hunt to buy it.

As usual, Sharon Stone and Madonna ran the celebrity auction which drew $350,000 for a private two-song Madonna concert in the fall, and $500,000 for a Porsche Stone and her brother restored among many other big ticket items. Stone also jumped into the audience to try and make out with Sean P. Combs if he would bid $320,000 for a personal Julian Schnabel portrait painting. He didn’t budge. 

Mary J. Blige performed a brilliant three-song set that had the very well-heeled tony crowd dancing like teenagers. As Harvey told us at the pre-dinner cocktail party, this hot ticket event (Chair Kenneth Cole said they could have sold it out three times over) is so successful year after year because of one word.