Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio star in "The Great Gatsby." (Warner Bros. )
The Cannes Film Festival has a long tradition of showcasing independent global cinema. But in a twist, this year's lineup also includes movies from a wide range of Hollywood entities: Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., CBS Films, the Weinstein Co., even HBO.
The selections revealed Thursday morning reflect a festival leadership that, for all its auteur leanings, is happy to thicken its lineup with American glamour. And while past slates have included a smattering of Hollywood films, the docket this year suggests that studios and networks are — for reasons having to do with marketing and keeping their talent happy — particularly eager to bring movies to the festival despite the hefty price tag. Cannes-related expenses, after all, can run a studio as much as $5 million.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list is Paramount's "Nebraska," a family road-trip movie that will play in competition. Directed by Alexander Payne and starring not-exactly-veteran-Cannes-actors such as Will Forte and Bob Odenkirk, the film is not slated to open in theaters until autumn. Most studios would be reluctant to premiere such a film at Cannes for fear of losing momentum as late-summer festivals like Telluride and Toronto highlight fresh fare. A Paramount spokeswoman did not comment on the company's strategy.
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CBS Films, for its part, is taking its fall awards hopeful, the Coen brothers' folk tale "Inside Llewyn Davis," to Cannes despite not opening the movie until November. Likely playing into that decision: The last time the Coens brought a movie to Cannes, "No Country for Old Men" in 2007, the movie went on to win best picture and gross $73 million in the U.S.
Sometimes it's not just a studio pushing for a Cannes berth. Eager for the credibility a festival spot confers, directors and actors will press for a trip to the festival, causing executives to agree through gritted teeth.
CBS and Paramount aren't alone. Warner Bros., is bringing Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" to open the festival on May 15, even though the U.S. critical and commercial fate of the Leonardo DiCaprio-starring film will have been largely determined — the film opens stateside May 10. The expense is worth it, Warner Bros. executives say, because Cannes will help the movie continue its American run as well as open overseas.
"I think you can use Cannes to really set up a worldwide release," said Sue Kroll, Warner Bros.' president of worldwide marketing. "The festival can be expensive but there is a lot of equity in terms of awareness."
And HBO, as a TV company a very rare Cannes presence, is premiering two TV movies on the Croisette — the Stephen Soderbergh-directed Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra," starring Matt Damon and Michael Douglas, and Stephen Frears' political-protest film "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight."
The oodles of publicity surrounding "Candelabra," which airs in the U.S. on May 26, could help boost viewership, as well as assist the company in selling international rights. An HBO spokeswoman declined comment.
And while Harvey Weinstein's company is a frequent Cannes attendee, even he seemed to outdo himself this year. The company will take three movies to France — two in competition: the James Gray period drama "The Immigrant" starring Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard, and Nicolas Winding Refn's Thai revenge story "Only God Forgives" starring Ryan Gosling and Kristen Scott Thomas and released by the company's boutique label Radius. In addition, Weinstein Co.'s Sundance Film Festival darling "Fruitvale Station" will play in the Un Certain Regard section.
"You can't just say, 'We have a movie so let's go to Cannes.' It really has to fit into a release strategy," said Weinstein Co. Chief Operating Officer David Glasser. "A lot of studios are seeing what a stage this can be in terms of media." He added, "For us, this really is Harvey's Camp David. It completely helps us open our movies."
"Fruitvale Station" and "Only God Forgives" will hit theaters in July. And though "Immigrant," a fall release, may benefit less from Cannes publicity, the company will have a percentage of the festival cost defrayed by its European distributors, where the film is coming out earlier.
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Glasser added that a Cannes trip allows a studio to promote other films, as Weinstein did last year with a press event touting "Django Unchained" and "The Silver Linings Playbook." It aims for a similar event this year showcasing, among others, John Wells' "August: Osage County" and Lee Daniels' "The Butler."
(Notably absent from the Cannes schedule (so far) is a big-budget animated picture — some festival-watchers had speculated that Pixar would premiere "Monsters University" there ahead of its June 21 release, following similar such entries in past years. Still, Cannes organizers have a tendency to make last-minute additions.)