AND DID YOU KNOW HE HAD AN AQUARIUM INSTALLED IN THE LOBBY OF THE PALAIS DES FESTIVALS? VIDEO...!
Twenty years ago today, a day after the closing night of the 54th Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2001, Brian De Palma and his cast and crew were hard at work preparing for an overnight Monday-Tuesday shoot, filming the bravura opening heist sequence of what turned out to be one of his finest films, Femme Fatale. After it was all done, Variety's Alison James filed a brief report about the overnight shoot:
CANNES — Having shared the limelight with new artistic director Thierry Fremaux and new managing director Veronique Cayla throughout the just-concluded Cannes Intl. Film Festival, Gilles Jacob stood on the Palais steps alone Tuesday — for his bigscreen debut in Brian de Palma’s “Femme Fatale.”On the Sunday night before, during the closing awards gala, Jury President Liv Ullmann announced that the director's prize would be shared by David Lynch for Mulholland Drive, and Joel Coen for The Man Who Wasn't There. Although Antonio Banderas had already completed filming all of his scenes in Femme Fatale before Cannes, and does not appear in the opening sequence, he was at the festival to accompany his wife, Melanie Griffith, who was the Cannes guest of honor that year. Griffith received the Festival Trophy on May 19th at a dinner reception following a screening of Working Girl. Melanie and Antonio then made a splash for a second night in a row on the red carpet for the Cannes closing night gala:
Playing himself, the fest prexy greeted helmer Regis Wargnier, actress Sandrine Bonnaire, producer Yves Marmion and the cast and crew of Wargnier’s “East West” as they climbed the red-carpeted steps for a specially staged opening sequence of De Palma’s $35 million thriller.
The two-day shoot, a day after the film festival closed, took three months to prepare, according to Marina Gefner, who is producing with Tarak Ben Ammar. Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications fully financed the film.
De Palma persuaded Wargnier to participate “because they are friends,” said Gefner. Some 1,000 extras were hired and almost 200 press photographers who had been covering Cannes were persuaded to stay on for the film shoot. Car rental companies and the local police also were called upon to take part.
As for Jacob, he was “fantastic and very professional,” Gefner said.
“It was a long night. We started at 8:30 p.m. and went on until 6 in the morning, but he remained right until the last shot,” she said.
In a May 24, 2001 report on French TV channel TF1, Gilles Jacob said that De Palma first brought up the idea of filming at the festival at a dinner the year before in which he was accompanied by Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. "De Palma is a great director," Jacob told TF1. "It's a pleasure to be doing this."
A Nice Matin article from that week described De Palma's tendency to jump out of his chair and direct the actors closely on a moment's whim or inspiration. According to TF1, Wargnier enjoyed his role as much as Jacob, saying that it is always interesting to be on the other side of the camera and study another director's methods. Wargnier, who says that he and De Palma have long admired each others' work, was also consulted by De Palma about locations prior to the shoot in Paris. "De Palma and I became friends 11 years ago," Wargnier told TF1 in 2001, "and he enjoyed my film East-West so much that I couldn't refuse." Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (as she was known at the time of the interview) told the station that De Palma is a legend. "He listens to my ideas," she continued, leading into a laugh, "but ends up doing what he has in mind."
I was surprised this week to find a video on YouTube, posted a couple of years ago by Aquadia Scandia Aquariums Cannes FRANCE, showing a team installing an aquarium inside the Palais des Festivals. The aquarium they installed during the day the Monday after the festival appears to be a smaller version of an aquarium that was already a central part of the building's lobby. In this movie aquarium (which the camera in Femme Fatale glimpses only briefly as it passes by a couple of times), the team appears to have included a crystal ball. In the final film, the aquarium can be seen most clearly in this shot, next to Rie Rasmussen: