At the Cannes Film Festival, No One Is Canceled

From a cramped hotel suite in a luxury Cannes hotel, two film execs attempt an unlikely feat: sell the distribution rights to Kevin Spacey’s comeback film. On May 17, Vantage Media International, or VMI, a Hollywood-based company that sells films primarily to foreign markets, showed a finished print of the noir drama Peter five eight to potential buyers willing to jeopardize the two-time Oscar winner’s first starring role since his career stalled amid sexual misconduct allegations in 2017.

“The response is very good. People say it’s a quality film,” says VMI Sales Manager JD Beuafils. “But it’s really, really early [in the deal-making].”

In a room full of marketing materials for VMI films such as Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon and the Sam Worthington machine gun Kelly Western the last son, the company’s COO, Jessica Bennett, gives an equally vague assessment when asked if the show here in southern France was well attended. “I don’t do employee counts,” she says. “I just look in, make sure the film is on and looking good, and then I walk out.”

The fact that there was even an audience for the film — with the catchphrase “The guilty always pay the price” — could be seen as a coup for VMI, given Spacey’s pariah status in Hollywood. After at least 16 people came forward in late 2017 alleging the actor’s indecent and inappropriate behavior towards young men on set, he was quickly dropped from Netflix’s final season house of cards and excised from the Sony film All the money in the world. He hasn’t appeared on screen since then. But at a time when so many careers have fizzled out after #MeToo scandals, foreign markets have proven more forgiving of disgraced movie stars and filmmakers. Woody Allens A rainy day in New York was dropped by Amazon in 2018 after allegations resurfaced that he sexually assaulted his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, but it has found a home in a variety of countries from Poland to China. In 2019, rapist Nate Parker was charged American skin was awarded best film at the Venice Film Festival. Likewise that of Roman Polanksi An officer and a spy won several Cesar Awards – France’s Oscar equivalent – in 2020, including a Best Director award for the man who admitted to having sex with a 13-year-old girl in LA in 1977 (then fled to France before he could be convicted). ). Crime).

So, as before, at this year’s Cannes Film Festival there is no shortage of projects featuring the most scandal-ridden films on the market. The corrupt cop thriller morning star Stars James Franco, whose career took a nosedive after a year in 2018 Los Angeles Times Exposé in which five women accuse him of sexually exploitative behavior. June and John is a low budget love story directed by Luc Besson La Femme Nikita Director accused of rape by several actresses. Polanski is also buying a new film, a drama set in Switzerland called The palacewhich stars Mickey Rourke and is still in production.

One film that could take a break from American distributors is False Awakening, a psychological thriller starring Alec Baldwin. It is the embattled actor’s first project since he fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins in an accident with a prop gun on the set of another film. rust, last October. Chris Charalambous, a domestic buyer for Entertainment Studioswho is likely to buy half a dozen films at Cannes says he would consider risking the film.

“I believe [the Rust shooting] The tragic on-set incident was in no way malicious on the part of Alec Baldwin, so I wouldn’t ignore it or avoid it [that] project,” says Charalambous. But when it comes to working with suspected predators, he adds, “I think that’s something we would continue to stay away from at this point.”

As another top buyer puts it, “It’s so hard just getting a movie out. Why take a risk on a project where the conversation surrounding the film is not about the film itself?”

Although public outrage Influence decision-makers in Hollywood, the European rant remains a lesser factor. International distribution company Wild Bunch, which has long championed divisive projects (think Gaspar Noe’s 2002 drama). Irreversible, which contained a controversial nine-minute rape scene) has two projects up for grabs at Cannes starring the high-profile defendant. The Paris-based company oversees Dario Argento’s thriller dark glasses, in which his daughter Asia Argento stars. In 2018 the New York Times reported that the actress-director sexually abused actor Jimmy Bennett when he was a minor. Wild Bunch’s roster also includes historical drama Jeanne du Barry, in which Johnny Depp – who is currently fighting ex-wife Amber Heard in a Virginia court amid domestic violence allegations from both sides – King Louis XV. portrayed. (And in a notable move last year, Wild Bunch hired exiled Hollywood mogul Ron Meyer, who was fired from NBCUniversal in 2020 for having a secret sexual relationship with actress Charlotte Kirk as a teenager.)

Financiers also evade scrutiny. Few in Cannes have laid their eyes on the fact that Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch sanctioned in Britain and much of Europe for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is a supporter of the well-received romantic drama Tchaikovsky’s wife. Festival boss Thierry Frémaux justified the admission decision Tchaikovsky’s wife into the Cannes line-up, declaring during a press conference: “We have a different position than France or the European Commission.”

That laissez-faire attitude also appears to be extending to the Saudi Film Commission, which has returned to the festival this year after withdrawing since the 2018 killing Washington Post Columnist Jamal Khashoggi – a crime US intelligence attributes to Saudi government agents. Members of the Saudi delegation are on-site in Cannes booking meetings to market their country as a production base with cinematic locations such as sandy deserts, snow-capped mountains and sandy Red Sea beaches, as well as the money and infrastructure to offer the best of everything.

“Now that Russian money is taboo, Saudi money is back,” jokes a producer at the festival.

As for projects from scandal-stricken stars or filmmakers, Europe may continue to offer a safe haven – and perhaps even a path to redemption for those who have been cancelled. Spacey actually has a second project in Cannes, the historical drama 1242 – Gateway to the West, a British-Hungarian-Mongolian co-production in which he will play a priest in a film about Genghis Khan’s grandson.

Peter five eight For his part, producer Michael Hall downplayed any concerns about his star’s bad press. “[Kevin is] a controversial figure, but our perspective as filmmakers was to source the best talent for this film, and there is literally nobody on planet earth who could play the role of Peter better than Kevin,” says Hall Rolling Stone. “So our perspective is just focused on the film, on the talent.”

It’s a sentiment that reflects what few in Hollywood have dared to express publicly, but for that taxi driver Screenwriter Paul Schrader, who succinctly said of Spacey in 2021: “If he’s guilty of a crime, lock him up. If not, let him act.” At the Cannes Film Festival, No One Is Canceled

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