The women docked at the Majestic Barriere pier — which seemed highly appropriate, because the five stars were on a mission to kick down all manner of barriers.
The quintet were called to arms by Jessica Chastain, who made her mark in The Debt, The Help and Zero Dark Thirty.
She gathered her fellow actors (Ms Chastain prefers the term actor to actress) Lupita Nyong’o, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz and Bingbing Fan at the Hotel du Cap in Cap d’Antibes, before travelling by launch along the Riviera to the pier.
The women posed for photographs and announced they would star in a spy thriller called 355 (George Washington’s secret code book apparently used the numerals to denote a woman), playing a group of international secret agents.
The quintet were called to arms by Jessica Chastain, who made her mark in The Debt, The Help and Zero Dark Thirty
Chastain came up with the idea when she was making X-Men: Dark Phoenix with the writer and director Simon Kinberg.
The Oscar-nominated actor, who portrayed a CIA operative in Zero Dark Thirty, had long wanted to produce a film in which women provided the thrills and action.
In one discussion we had, Chastain insisted: ‘I’m not interested in a female James Bond, or a female anything.
‘I want an action film about women, starring female actors. The intention isn’t to take the male template and put women in it.’
She approached playwright and screenwriter Theresa Rebeck to write the script and asked operatives she met while making Zero Dark Thirty to offer insight to Rebeck and her cast mates.
I smiled as I watched the scrum of photographers take their pictures then pursue the leading ladies as they strode, arm in arm, from the pier to the Majestic Barriere hotel.
She gathered her fellow actors (Ms Chastain prefers the term actor to actress) Lupita Nyong’o, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz and Bingbing Fan at the Hotel du Cap in Cap d’Antibes, before travelling by launch along the Riviera to the pier
It would have been impossible to drive them by limousine, so they were shielded by security men (and women) as they made the 300-yard walk.
It reminded me of classic Cannes photocalls back in the day, when the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone would try to out-muscle one another when they launched some now long-forgotten film.
But, by my count, the blokes needed more security guards to look after them.
‘We women are a powerful force,’ Chastain noted. ‘We can handle ourselves very well.’
That has never been in doubt.
Jade the blade set to tackle a feisty queen
The formidable Margaret of Anjou married Henry VI, a king so weak she became the real power behind the throne
Jade Anouka is ready for a bloody battle royal. The actress (right) will play the title role in Queen Margaret at the Royal Exchange in Manchester this autumn.
The formidable Margaret of Anjou married Henry VI, a king so weak she became the real power behind the throne.
‘She’s also a force in Shakespeare,’ Anouka told me.
‘She’s the only character to feature in four of Shakespeare’s plays,’ she added, explaining how Margaret figures prominently in all three parts of Henry VI and Richard III.
Jeanie O’Hare has used the Bard and other sources to weave together the play, which runs from September 14.
‘It’s a re-telling of the War of the Roses,’ Anouka said. ‘Margaret was in the thick of it.
‘She kills Richard (later Richard III) of York’s dad, and he wants revenge. It’s a hefty story!’
She’s well prepared for a fight. Anouka studied at the Guildford School of Acting and was top at stage combat.
She learned how to box for Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare trilogy, set in a prison.
And Jade plans to take extra sword-fighting classes in the summer to prepare for Margaret.
‘It’s good fun,’ she said from Hampstead Theatre, where she’s playing the title role in The Phlebotomist.
Anouka said she’s meeting Queen Margaret director Elizabeth Freestone next week to discuss it.
‘[Margaret] is 14 when we first meet her and she dies at 52, and I don’t yet know how we’re going to deal with her ageing.’
MADAM CATE TIES ME IN KNOTS!
I am pretty hopeless at tying them and usually cheat at black-tie affairs by wearing a Tom Ford knitted silk (regular) tie
Cate Blanchett greeted me with: ‘You’ve come undone, Baz. Let me fix you.’
It was my bow tie. I am pretty hopeless at tying them and usually cheat at black-tie affairs by wearing a Tom Ford knitted silk (regular) tie.
But for the official evening screenings at Cannes, they’re forbidden.
You have to wear a bow tie, and I hate those ready-made things. So I gave myself enough time to tie one. Or so I thought.
‘I’m impressed you’re wearing a proper one,’ said Blanchett, who I’ve taken to calling Madam President now she’s chairing the main Cannes jury. (‘It does have a nice ring to it,’ she said.)
Once Madam President had fixed me, I dashed off to dine on caviar bouchon, followed by lobster salad (which I’m not meant to have, but did anyway), duck and, for dessert, raspberries topped with silver leaf. Delicious.
Meet the star of her very own festival double bill
Barbara Lennie had back-to-back premieres — in two sections of the Cannes Film Festival.
She was in the cast line-up, led by Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, that walked up the fabled red carpet for the opening night picture, Everybody Knows (in which she plays Bardem’s wife, who has to keep an eye on the sort of ‘other woman’ played by Cruz).
Barbara Lennie had back-to-back premieres — in two sections of the Cannes Film Festival
And she played the eponymous Petra in director Jaime Rosales’s gem of a film about an artist in search of her father, who discovers the high cost (in terms of lives) of such an undertaking.
‘The father is a monster, really, and it’s difficult to defend him. At one point, Petra thinks: “I came from this man? Really?!” ’ she told me.
‘It’s crazy to have two films,’ said the Spanish-born actress, who spent part of her childhood with her parents in Argentina.
‘Lack of sleep is the price. But it’s an incredible honour,’ she added, when we met yesterday at the Quinzaine beach, close to where Petra was screened in Directors’ Fortnight.
I have watched Ms Lennie in several foreign language movies, including Pedro Almodovar’s creepy The Skin I Live In.
But the two films at Cannes are among her best work. In director Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows, she wonders what are her husband’s motives when he helps out an old flame (Cruz) whose daughter has been kidnapped during a family wedding at a Spanish vineyard.
It was a refreshingly good choice to open the festival, given that (in my experience) openers are often leaden and deadly.
‘Penelope and Javier were funny and amazing,’ she said. ‘We all said it’s easier to come to a festival like Cannes when you are proud of your work.’
But she’s no overnight success. ‘I’ve been working for a long time,’ she noted, as I flicked through her credits on IMDb (the online Internet Movie Database).
Originally a theatre actress, she will return to the stage in Madrid this summer. After that, she has a big international film project, which she’s not allowed to discuss just yet.
44 years on… retro screening of Scorsese classic still packs ’em in
The queue stretched down the Croisette — the main promenade in Cannes.
And this was still a full 45 minutes before the picture was due to start.
What was the attraction? Some highly touted new Hollywood blockbuster?
No, in fact, we were all waiting to get into a retrospective screening of Martin Scorsese’s 1973 breakthrough film Mean Streets, which was being shown as part of the Directors’ Fortnight 50th anniversary celebrations.
I first saw the film, starring Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro as two small-time hoods from New York’s Little Italy, when it opened in London in 1974
Scorsese, right with Cate Blanchett, said on Wednesday that when he was growing up, he knew people such as those depicted in Mean Streets
I first saw the film, starring Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro as two small-time hoods from New York’s Little Italy, when it opened in London in 1974.
I had to con my way into the cinema because I was underage. But I remembered reading Pauline Kael’s rave review in The New Yorker the previous year.
And I’d read about the fuss that was made of it in Cannes in May of ’74.
I caught it again when it was re-released in 1993. Yet, as I viewed it on Wednesday, it felt (oddly enough) completely fresh.
Even hearing The Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash on the soundtrack seemed new.
Scorsese said on Wednesday that when he was growing up, he knew people such as those depicted in Mean Streets.
‘A very dangerous place on many levels, populated by some very tough people — and some very good people.’
He said he was grateful for the reception that the film received in Cannes 44 years ago. ‘I didn’t think it would get any distribution,’ he admitted.
Now, Mean Streets is part of the history of cinema.
Watch out for…
Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ed Oxenbould, who are superb as a family falling apart in Paul Dano’s film version of Richard Ford’s 1990 novel Wildlife.
Set in the Sixties, the story has been adapted by Dano and Zoe Kazan and is seen primarily through the eyes of teenager Joe Brinson (Oxenbould).
His parents are struggling because, while Gyllenhaal’s Jerry believes he’s ‘well liked’ (shades of Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman), he can’t hold down a job.
Wife Jeanette keeps the home going, with Mulligan captivating as a woman who wants more out of her plain, simple life — and ruthlessly sets out to get it.
The film opened the Critics’ Week in Cannes and I’m surprised it wasn’t pushed up to the Un Certain Regard section. We’ll be hearing more about it soon enough.
Jodie Steele, T’Shan Williams and Sophie Isaacs, who will play the three Heathers in the musical version of director Michael Lehman’s cult classic film Heathers.
The movie starred Winona Ryder as Veronica, a teenager who’s been co-opted by her high school’s cruel queen bees (all of whom happen to be named ‘Heather’).
Carrie Hope Fletcher has already been cast in the role of Veronica, and Jamie Muscato will play Jason Dean, her dark and mysterious beau.
The cast also includes Rebecca Lock as guidance counsellor Mrs Fleming.
The musical, written by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe and directed by Andy Fickman, runs at The Other Palace from June 9.