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Cannes’ band of outsiders

Fest famous for cameo appearances

Every celebrity-thick, paparazzi-infested Cannes Film Fest has its band of outsiders — those public figures, entirely outside the film world, who make cameo appearances, skirting the sidelines and stirring things up. And some may wish they’d stayed home.

Prince Charles held a famous 1987 press conference where, struggling to pronounce “coup de foudre,” he accidentally told festgoers his brother, Prince Edward, had “an ass of lightning” in French. 

Ten years later the Spice Girls made themselves ubiquitous up and down the Croisette plugging “Spice World” — admirable promotional commitment, considering the pic had yet to be filmed or even scripted. 

That same year, Michael Jackson provided the expected freak-show distraction for the premiere of “Ghosts,” his long-forgotten follow-up to “Thriller.”

Andy Warhol, with Nico and the rest of his entourage in tow, went trolling for venues to screen “Chelsea Girls” in 1967, finding none and being forcibly ejected from a number of receptions. (The avant-garde film was finally shown to confused Parisians weeks later at the Cinematheque.) 

Blue-collar L.A. poet Charles Bukowski likely felt out of place as a guest amid the glitterati in 1985, as must have Susan Sontag in 1972, when she screened her film “Brother Carl.” 

Alexandra Kerry, daughter of Sen. John Kerry, created a stir with cineastes and campaign staffers alike when she wore a see-through dress on the “Kill Bill 2” red carpet during the 2004 primaries. 

Paul McCartney‘s appearance sparked a photographic circus in 2001.

Unexpectedly, Jerry Springer brought little of his trademark sleaze to the fest in 2003, instead discussing responsibility in broadcasting and speculating on a future U.S. Senate run.

But other American provocateurs have embraced their notoriety abroad.

Hugh Hefner‘s Playmates threw him a 75th birthday party at the fest in 2001.

Howard Stern traveled with a cadre of strippers to unveil “Private Parts” in 1997.

Cannes cameos, however, have hardly been limited to hawkers and hangers-on: Several juror selections seem almost counterintuitive. Last year, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison served duty, joining a list that includes soprano Barbara Hendricks as well as novelists Lawrence Durrell (an admitted cinephobe), Anthony Burgess and Norman Mailer. About the experience, Mailer said: “Cannes is not my kind of town.”

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