The Toronto Sun
May 17, 2001
Cannes Rings Party a Fantasy Experience
CANNES -- The film fest is as famed for its extravagant parties as it is for its films. But, with overall hype money tighter and party budgets slashed, and with many of this year's competition films getting savaged by critics and audiences, the mood of celebration is a bit muted this year.
That is why the New Line Cinema bash in honour of The Lord Of The Rings now rates as the nightlife peak for Cannes 2001 so far. And I doubt anything planned for the rest of the fest will match this celebration.
The setting, which was perfect for feting a movie set in the ancient magical realms of author J.R.R. Tolkien's imagination, was the Chateau de Castellaras, a centuries-old French stone castle and villa set high in the hills near the historic village of Mougins, a half-hour drive north of Cannes.
Lit by torches and burning pots of oil, and decorated with sets from the movie trilogy -- which was shot over 15 months in 1999-2000 in New Zealand and is now being prepared for a December launch -- the Chateau was dressed in its medieval best.
Unknown actors dressed as Lord Of The Rings characters, from dwarfs to elves to hobbits to peasant people, drifted among the 1000-plus guests or sat around fires roasting lamb and drinking mead. A six-metre-high statue of a cave troll sat under a huge tree. Artifacts from the film sat in display cases in the Chateau's front entrance, as if they were family relics. Only the R&B music from a live band was at odds.
MAKING A HOBBIT OF IT
Actors from the trilogy -- Liv Tyler, Christopher Lee, John Rhys-Davies, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood -- mingled with the party-goers. Wood, who plays the heroic Hobbit Frodo, hosted folks in a Hobbit room where the bar was built to tower over guests and make them feel as small as Frodo or Bilbo. "Do I feel like a Hobbit myself?" Wood teased. "I am a Hobbit. I played one for 15 months and I still feel like one."
Elsewhere at the party, I ran into the ebullient, well-educated Rhys-Davies and spent a half hour debating the origins of the universe as we stared up at the Mediterranean sky. Rhys-Davies, who plays a warrior Dwarf, then vowed to ensure that Lord Of The Rings gets all the support he can give it. "We all feel that way. This is a very special project. All the actors will do everything they can in aid of it."
Rhys-Davies' American manager, Louisa Spring, waxed poetic about the party as she wished aloud for her Toronto relatives to be there that night: "This event truly evokes the spirit of Middle Earth and the feeling you get from reading the books -- and the feeling you will get seeing the films."
Directors Renny Harlin and David Cronenberg attended along with movie moguls such as New Line's Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne (who called the $270-million The Lord Of The Rings trilogy "a once-in-a-career opportunity").
Cronenberg told The Sun, after enthusing about the party, that he is in Cannes in connection with his latest project, Spider, now just 10 days into pre-production. Based on a novel, Spider is a psychological profile of a mentally complex man who will be played by Ralph Fiennes. It's a long way away from Cronenberg's early horror flicks and light years removed from a Tolkien fantasy. Cannes parties are as much about doing business as being swept away.