Hello, and welcome to International Insider. Jake Kanter here, as usual, bringing you everything worth knowing from the past seven days in global film and TV. It’s been a memorable week, with the film biz reuniting for a little-known event by the French seaside and football fever gripping Europe. Apologies to readers in Italy, but COME ON ENGLAND! 🏴 🦁
Cannes Cracks On
Inauspicious beginnings: Forget the red carpets and rosé, Cannes delegates were all talking about testing as they arrived on the French Riviera. For those not fully jabbed, it’s necessary to spit into a tube every two days to prove that you are Covid-free. Our Tom Grater memorably describes a testing facility ringing with the sound of people gathering saliva. Oh, the glamour! After a few tech teething problems, the system seemed to work, Tom reports, despite the heat and last night’s wine conspiring to make some parched. Otherwise, Nancy Tartaglione remarked on a town lacking “mega Cannes Film Festival thrust,” with hotels closed and billboards at a minimum.
International Insider: Cannes Preview; Waking Up To Wrongdoing; Best Of The Fests
Opening night: The glamour did eventually glint into view during Tuesday’s opening ceremony, when Leos Carax’s Annette raised the curtain on a fest like no other. Described by our chief film critic Pete Hammond as an “offbeat rock opera musical fantasy,” Tom says it was the perfect opener, setting the Croisette abuzz with upbeat chatter about the strength of this year’s program. Welcoming the industry was 2019 Palme d’Or winner Bong Joon-ho, Cannes vet Pedro Almodóvar, jury president Spike Lee (in a glorious hot pink tux), and honorary Palme d’Or recipient Jodie Foster. Naturally, they spoke about the enduring power of cinema after a period in which most theatres have been shut. Foster, who spent lockdown gorging on Kurosawa and Scorsese flicks, told an enraptured audience (in fluent French) that the art form “still gives me chills. I will never lose my wonder at and gratitude for the cinema.”
Driver takes a drag: The show may well have been stolen by Annette leading man Adam Driver, who quite literally blew all protocols about mask-wearing. Rising for a five-minute standing ovation, he lit up a cigarette and exhaled right down the barrel of a Canal+ TV camera. Not very Covid friendly, but undeniably rock and roll. Needless to say, it sent countless Driver stan accounts into meltdown on social media. Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh captured the moment here. Later in the week, another five-minute standing ovation moved Matt Damon to tears after Focus Features showcased Stillwater. Pete Hammond reckons it’s the vehicle for a career-best turn for Damon, who plays a fish-out-of-water Oklahoma oil-rig roughneck hellbent on freeing his daughter from a Marseille prison.
What our team was watching: Reviews, we have many. I’m particularly looking forward to Val Kilmer’s Val, which Pete describes as an “exhilarating, honest and raw look at the life of an actor.” Kilmer’s kids sat down with Joe Utichi to discuss the movie for Deadline’s Cannes Studio. Elsewhere, Anna Smith watched Juliette Binoche’s Between Two Worlds and found a feature that “hits all the beats of an arthouse crowd-pleaser.” She later took in Andrea Arnold’s Cow, which she says is a documentary on a British bovine that will leave audiences with “plenty to chew on.” Arnold could be found spinning the decks at a throwback Cannes villa party on Thursday night. Todd McCarthy, meanwhile, enjoyed euthanasia film Everything Went Fine, which serves up a “raft of crafty and appealing veteran actors, lush filmmaking and savvy and deft handling of the central emotional dynamic.” More reviews right here.
Dealmaking: We sniffed a few of the biggest pacts of the week. Mike Fleming was first to report that Amazon Studios has moved into exclusive talks on a worldwide deal for Foe, a Garth Davis-directed thriller starring Saoirse Ronan, Paul Mescal, and LaKeith Stanfield. Meanwhile, Andreas Wiseman had the scoop on the most lucrative agreement struck at the Cannes virtual market so far. STX has beaten out a number of rival bids for worldwide rights to the Gerard Butler action sequel Greenland: Migration in a deal worth more than $75M. Andreas also revealed that Netflix has swooped on world rights to horror film CURS>R, starring Asa Butterfield.
Deadline Disruptors: If you’re thirsty for more content, we have a veritable parade of big names in our special Cannes magazine. The cover star is Léa Seydoux, who features in no less than four Cannes titles, while other interviews include Sean Penn, Netflix VP Larry Tanz, and John Boyega’s agent Femi Oguns. Check out the full edition here.
‘Lord Of The Rings’ Long Read
My precious: If you read one thing this weekend, make it Mike Fleming’s wonderful deep-dive on Hollywood’s biggest gamble: The Lord Of The Rings. From its jittery beginnings to its bumper Oscar haul and $3B record gross, Mike chronicles Peter Jackson’s trilogy through the prism of its premiere in Cannes 20 years ago. Armed with less than 30 minutes of footage, New Line Cinema staged a lavish $2M party, erecting sets at the historic Château de Castellaras and flying in the principal cast. It was the moment everything changed for the franchise, which went from being a presumed flop to the most buzzed-about creation on the Croissette.
Bathroom bawl: Mike has spoken to all the key players, including Jackson and Frodo himself Elijah Wood. Jackson perfectly sums up the pressure all parties were under in a revealing anecdote about an encounter with New Line founder Bob Shaye. The Kiwi director had just flown into LA with the footage that would eventually be shown in Cannes, when he was collared by Shaye. “I’m there alone in a bathroom with Bob Shaye thinking, what the hell is this? He looked at me and he said, ‘Please, Peter, please, we have all these partners, they’re relying on the success of this film. If it doesn’t work, they’re going to go under, so I just want you to know how important it is for me that we don’t let our partners down.’ And he began to cry. I mean, Bob began to sob, and it was literally the most personal moment that I ever had with him.” There’s plenty more where that came from, right here.
BBC By Numbers
Arresting figures: The BBC annual report is always a jamboree of data and detail, so I thought I would break it down into a few key numbers for you below. Should you wish, you can digest all 312 pages of the report here, complete with a cover of Line Of Duty’s Kate Fleming and Joanne Davidson looking like they’re going to interrogate the hell out of you (see above).
£2M ($2.8M): The amount the BBC slashed its talent pay bill by. The corporation was helped by the cancelation of major events during the coronavirus pandemic, meaning there was no need to line the pockets of presenting teams for things like Wimbledon, Eurovision, and Glastonbury. The BBC’s highest-paid star for a third year in a row: Gary Lineker, who trousered £1.36M even after a £400,000 pay cut last year. Go deeper.
£30M ($41M): BBC Studios’ EBITDA fell 17%, or £30M, to £151M after half of its productions were shut down during the pandemic. Despite the financial performance, BBC chairman Richard Sharp said BBC Studios had a “better year than anticipated.” Indeed, its 17% profit hit compared favorably to other major European production giants, including ITV Studios and Fremantle. Find out more.
24.8M: That’s how many license fees were collected in the year to March 2021 — the lowest since at least 2006. Some 1M license fee refusniks have emerged in the UK in the past two years. This is a worrying trend for the BBC, which is fighting for relevance in the age of streaming.
90%: In better news, the vast majority of UK adults tuned into a BBC service every week. And while young and diverse people are switching off the TV, there have been big jumps in online reach among these groups.
62 cases: At a time when the TV and film industry is facing a bullying and sexual harassment reckoning, formal complaints about wrongdoing at the BBC were at their lowest level in three years. Four of the 62 cases involved sexual harassment, compared with 10 last year.
0: The number of union jacks in the annual report. It follows a ridiculous intervention from Conservative MP James Wild in March, who quizzed the BBC on how many union jack flags were contained in its 2020 annual report. Wild was gobsmacked to find none. This year’s edition will leave him no less aghast.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Matthew Vaughn has assembled Henry Cavill, Dua Lipa, Sam Rockwell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O’Hara, John Cena, and Samuel L. Jackson for Argylle, which will start shooting this August in Europe. Andreas Wiseman has the details.
🌶️ Another hot one: Apple TV+ and the BBC have teamed up for 9/11: Inside the President’s War Room, a Jeff Daniels-narrated documentary special that has gained unprecedented access to the Bush administration to recount the events of that fateful day. Read more.
🌶️ One more: It’s actually happening — Paddington 3 is set to begin shooting in 2022, Studiocanal announced Tuesday during the Cannes Film Festival. Read more.
🍿 International box office: Disney/Marvel’s long-anticipated Black Widow began offshore rollout on Wednesday in 11 material markets including France, Italy, and the UK, grossing an estimated $4.9M. Nancy Tartaglione has the details.
😔 RIP Dilip Kumar: The Hindi superstar died in Mumbai at the age of 98. He had been ill this year and was admitted to hospital on June 30 suffering from breathlessness. Known as the ‘Tragedy King’, Kumar was one of India’s earliest and brightest stars. Full obit.
⚽ New soccer doc: The next installment of Amazon Prime Video’s popular sports doc franchise All Or Nothing is set to be filmed at London-based soccer club Arsenal over the 2021-22 season. Tom had the scoop.
🖊️ Done deal: Mediawan & Leonine Studios, the joint venture between France’s Mediawan and Germany’s Leonine, has acquired 51% of Drama Republic, the UK drama producer behind Doctor Foster. Full story.
🚚 On the move: The BBC has hired Jon Petrie as its director of comedy after the producer spent less than a year at Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones’ Netflix-backed production company Broke & Bones. Read on.
🎞️ UK reopens: England’s cinemas and theaters are set to return to full capacity from July 19, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday. “We are pleased they will now be given the opportunity to respond more flexibly to audience demand,” said the UK Cinema Association. More here.
🎦 Trailer dash: Keshet International has picked up Icelandic road trip comedy-drama Journey, starring Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald actor Olafur Darri Ólafsson and Víkingur Kristjáns (Valhalla Murders). Check out the trailer.
Football fever: All eyes on Sunday, when England and Italy do battle in the Euro 2020 final. The soccer tournament has seemingly lifted Europe out of its Covid slumber, with joyous scenes of beer-drenched celebrations across the continent. Football is one of the few things that unites people in this way and, for many, it has been a huge release after months of lockdown. The final is on course to smash television ratings records in the UK, where 27.6M people watched England overcome Denmark on commercial broadcaster ITV. It’s felt like a home tournament with so many of the games being played at Wembley Stadium. And what about delegates at the Cannes Film Festival? Our Tom Grater has been following England’s progress on the French Riviera, where securing a seat in front of a television has been as pressing as snagging tickets for the hottest films in town. Expect Irish pubs Ma Nolan’s, The Station Tavern, and Morrisons to be packed come Sunday night.