I don’t know if Leonardo Da Vinci ever set foot in Cannes, here in the South of France. But wherever he is, he’s no doubt heard his address, if not his name, taken in vain a million times in the last few days.
That’s because as press, filmmakers, actors, wannabes and all manner of entertainment industry types file into this beach town today, Ron Howard’s “The Da Vinci Code” opens the Cannes Film Festival tomorrow night with the most excitement this place has seen in years.
The venerable Hotel Carlton, right up on the Croisette — the long narrow boulevard that separates Cannes from a shimmering blue-green bay — has become Da Vinci central.
It’s where Columbia Pictures/Sony Entertainment has set up shop to disperse opening night tickets and to entertain the kind of people — distributors, theater chain owners — who could make Howard’s movie a bigger hit for them than even “Spider-Man.”
Not to be outdone at the Carlton, one of the two most imposing and important hotels along the Croisette, including The Majestic, Universal Pictures has adorned the entrance way to the Carlton with gigantic blow-ups of Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell announcing the summer premiere of “Miami Vice.”
Anyone who comes out under the main portico for a cab can judge both men’s dermatology if so desired, that’s how big the pictures are.
It’s a sign that Universal is putting its all into a summer blockbuster with a troubled history. But the moral here is never count out director Michael Mann, who's had success with every one of his movies rumored to be a flop. I mean “The Insider,” “Heat” and “Ali.”
A walk up and down the Croisette yesterday afternoon proved to be interesting as a dress rehearsal. Huge billboards have gone up for another Jamie Foxx movie, “Dreamgirls,” which will have a private screening of about 15 minutes worth of footage this week.
This is always a good trick to whet the appetites of distributors and press alike. Paramount, which has “Dreamgirls” through Dreamworks, is doing likewise with Oliver Stone’s much-anticipated “World Trade Center.”
And producer-director Irwin Winkler is showing off 45 minutes of his “Home of the Brave,” starring Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, former soap actor Brian Presley, Christina Ricci and rapper 50 Cent.
The publicists don’t know which of the stars is coming besides Jackson, but they’re hoping for 50 Cent.
Of course, former Vice President Al Gore is coming, bringing his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” directed by Davis Guggenheim, husband of actress Elizabeth Shue and son of late documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim.
Legendary architect Frank Gehry may show up for a terrific film made about him by Sydney Pollack called “Sketches of Gehry.”
Gehry’s biggest fan and disciple, Brad Pitt, might cause a stir and fly in from Namibia, where he and Angelina Jolie have gone to birth a child (something that must amuse locals who would swap to have their own babies at an American hospital like Cedars Sinai in West Hollywood).
There are plenty of other big-name films warranting high expectations: Sofia Coppolia’s “Marie Antoinette”; Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver”; Brett Ratner’s “X-Men: The Last Stand”; Richard Linklater’s “Fast Food Nation”; Richard Kelly’s “Southland Tales” — he’s the 31-year-old director of cult hit “Donnie Darko” — and Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
All in all, the red carpet is going to be a busy place — and so is the Majestic's bar, called Fouquet’s — where many deals will be sewn up in between screenings.
What would Cannes be without Sharon Stone? No, "Basic Instinct 2" is not screening in or out of competition, but Stone will be here, as she is every year, for the annual AmFar dinner to raise money for AIDS Research.
This is the most coveted ticket of the festival, a black-tie dinner held in Mougins, where the beloved Elton John invariably performs with guest stars and Sharon conducts a live auction that is usually memorable and outrageous.
There is also a rumor that Stevie Wonder, who may be in town, will entertain the crowd, too.
Will Elton show up in a tutu? He’s also co-produced a film with his husband/partner David Furnish called “It’s a Boy Girl Thing,” so this could be a big Sir Elton week.
One of the main sponsors, Harvey Weinstein, will also be on hand to celebrate his "liberation," and a raft full of potential fall Oscar nominees.
AmFar isn’t Sharon’s only charity, however. She’s very involved with another one started by her sister Kelly called Planet Hope.
Now Sharon and Kelly, I’m told, have gotten Saucony sneakers, a division of Stride Rite, to donate hundreds of pairs of shoes to low-income elementary school kids in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, Fla., before summer begins.
It’s a great idea, and I hope Planet Hope can get more of those sneaker companies like Nike and Reebok to do the same.
I’ll tell you right where they need to come next: Bridgeport, Conn., the most forgotten and needy urban school district in the Northeast. And down in the Washington, D.C., area, they can go to www.neediestkids.org, which is having their annual fundraiser this weekend.
Sharon Stone’s enormous talents as a humanitarian are always welcomed.
I know as much about programming a network prime time schedule as Garry Marshall did back on “Murphy Brown.” But it seems to me that “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives” are hits on Sunday because they’re whimsical, slight bits of entertainment that are the perfect antidote to pre-work week anxieties.
Now that "Grey's" is being moved to Thursdays, something tells me that it's going to get lost in the roar of end-of-the-week socializing.
And why oh why is NBC leaving "Law & Order" up against "Lost" at 10 p.m. on Wednesdays? I guess my original theory stands: This is the last season for the venerable Dick Wolf flagship unless “Lost” really goes off the rails.