Festival conquers elements for opening night

Cannes is like a movie star: When the cameras are rolling, everything is sunny and terrific.

Despite giant waves last week, volcanic clouds and predictions of heavy rain for Wednesday, the opening of the 63rd Cannes Film Festival saw clear skies, frenzied film fans and a slew of film notables for the debut of Universal-Imagine Entertainment’s “Robin Hood.” Despite the declaration by many in the media that this would be a subdued festival, it was hooplah-as-usual for the opener.

Fest president Gilles Jacob and director Thierry Fremaux stood at the top of the Palais steps to greet the film’s stars Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, and producer Brian Grazer.

Other notables on the red carpet included Helen Mirren, Alain Terzian, president of the French academy of arts and sciences, Jean-Claude Van Damme, MK2 topper Nathanael Karmitz, Indian thesp Aishwarya Rai, Pathe topper Francois Ivernel and former French culture minister Jack Lang.

Preceding the screening was a ceremony presided over by Kristin Scott-Thomas that officially launched the event.

Following Cannes protocol, the jury entered en masse, with fest prez Tim Burton heading the contingent that included thesps Kate Beckinsale, Benicio Del Toro and Shekhar Kapur and Giovanna Mezzogiorno.

The screening was followed by an official cocktail and dinner at the Majestic Barriere hotel.

At an afternoon press conference, no one brought up the absence of director Ridley Scott, who’d announced earlier in the week that he couldn’t attend as he’s recovering from knee surgery. The press, in fact, seemed more interested in talking to Russell Crowe about soccer than about “Robin Hood.”

Grazer spoke about the unpredictability of opening a big Hollywood film at Cannes, which can be costly and has the advantage (or disadvantage) of having the worldwide media in attendance.

While press and audiences were generally friendly to “Robin Hood,” a few years ago his bigscreen adaptation of “The Da Vinci Code” was mercilessly slammed by reviewers and other media members when it opened the festival. However, Grazer said that reaction, after the mega-success of the book, may have helped stir up interest in the film, which ended up grossing more than $750 million.

Grazer said “Robin Hood” has political themes, and Crowe added that if Robin Hood were alive today, he’d no doubt be tackling the greed and corruption of Wall Street banking and the media monopoly.

Timothy M. Gray contributed to this report.

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