Quite simply, the Cannes Film Festival is big time. It’s so big in fact that it draws more media attention than any other Red Carpet event in the world. With this comes the money. Boats carrying helicopters glisten in the harbour as supercars run laps around the small streets of the French Riviera. People are beautiful, bronzed and botoxed.
Let’s face it, the Red Carpet is a place for the rich and famous. Naturally, I don’t belong there, which is the precise reason why I thought it would brilliant to try and get onto it- anyway possible.
As it happened, time decided that I was near to the South of France at the very time that the Cannes Film Festival was on. Fate, I believe, had organized this chance meeting. I just hoped they had a liberal policy on singlets and shorts on the red carpet.
Rob was my cameraman for this event. As part of a documentary which I was featuring in at the time, Honda had organized Rob to follow me around for this event in the hope that something special might happen. My only goal was to touch the red carpet, and this was what we were after.
Arriving on the eve of the opening day, we didn’t know what to think when we were greeted by thousands of people pulsating with excitement in the streets. A small beachside town, Cannes is based around one main road which hugs the coast line. On the water side of this road sits the Palais des Festivals. Here, the Cannes Film Festival is based and sure enough as we drove past at a snails pace, we passed a huge luscious red carpet which adorned the entrance area. The carpet ran along a large runway before then following steps up to a grand entrance to the building. On either side of the carpet stood temporary grand-stands specially installed for Paparazzi, Rob explained to me. A huge barrier surrounding this area which kept media and tourists at bay although you couldn’t tell the difference between the two as everyone was equipped with a camera and bum-bag. In the middle of the road, directly in front of the carpet, sat a traffic island designed for pedestrians. Right now however, this refuge was swamped with people who I assumed must have been waiting over night for this key-position. Interestingly, they all had brought a step-ladder which were erected behind them.
I was clearly not the only person trying to get close to the action and as such security was by no means subtle.
I previously had visions of strolling the Red carpet, swilling a glass of Cognac in one hand whilst the other high-fived multiple celebrities as we laughed and joked about the price of plastic surgery. At this rate, I would be lucky to simply touch the Red Carpet without being tazered.
My only option was to try and outsmart the establishment.
Plan A was to try and get official media accreditation. By doing so, I would hold a pass that would allow me access to all areas of the event. I mean, in Rob I had a cameraman and how could anyone deny me a media accreditation pass with my very own camera man? The answer; quite easily.
“Sir, if you cannot present us with details about your media company, reason for filming and journalist resume, we can’t help you.”
Hundreds of proper journalists stood behind me in line waiting to collect their legitimate passes. This particular media officer was one of four or five that I had lined up to see. Without a leg to stand on, I scratched my head and used my full-proof line;
“But, I have a camerman?”
Plan A had failed, horribly.
A near-by journalist who had picked up that I was essentially trying to scam my way onto the red carpet, approached me to share some advice.
“You can’t get onto the Red Carpet dressed like that, dear”
She had a point. I hadn’t thought of this before but my attire was definitely un-Red Carpet. Wearing a t-shirt, beach shorts and a pair of thongs, I looked like I was in Cannes for more of a surf than a stroll along the red carpet.
“If you want to get on the Red Carpet, you have to dress the part. Get yourself a Tux”
Perhaps she was right.
It was late by the time we left the media center so we decided to call it a night and start fresh in the morning. The Opening Day, less than 12 hours away, was to feature the new Robin Hood movie, starring Russell Crowe, a fellow Australian. Surely if I made contact with him, he would help me, right?
We left the main street of Cannes as council workers shined brass statues and re-touched pedestrians crossings and other road signs with a fresh layer of paint in preparation for the glitz and glamour of opening day. It was all about appearance. I needed a shower.
Worryingly, it was time for Plan B. Even worse, this meant that we were one step closer to Plan C, and Plan C revolved around jumping the fence and trying to run on the carpet. I wanted to avoid this, so the next morning Rob and myself hit the streets in order to try and find a ticket, if not Russell Crowe himself.
Arriving at midday, thousands of people had beaten us to the main area. They were already lining fences in a competition for the best vantage point. The traffic refuge was now all but full and even more step-ladders looked down upon us.
The first person I started chatting to was a security guard near to the media centre where I had spent some time the day before. I asked him what I needed to do to get on the carpet in the hope that he would help me out.
He grabbed at his chest and showed me a lanyard which showed-off his official pass.
“You need one of these, sir”
I looked around at the crowd and noticed that everybody near the carpet and official areas had one of these draped around their neck. He wasn’t lying. Differing levels of accreditation allowed access to different parts of the area. Having no pass was not a good thing.
Rob, suggested we grab a coffee and re-think. Admittedly the start of the day was not promising and so we crossed the road and headed for the nearest cafe. As we walked past the rear entrance of one restaurant, I noticed a huge piece of cardboard dumped next to a bin. Plan B was given new life as an idea struck me. What if I was to write a plea of some sort on the cardboard and parade around the Cannes Beach Circuit?
A big smile from Rob confirmed the plan was ridiculous enough to at least try and not long after a brief brainstorming session, we had ourselves our greatest weapon yet; a cardboard sandwich board advertising my needs.
HELP! I NEED RED CARPET TICKET! INVITE ME PLEASE
By cutting out a hole in the middle of the cardboard, I could pop my head through and literally wonder the streets as a walking advertising board. Surely a ticket would fall on to my lap.
Needless to say, as I stumbled through the busy pavements of Cannes, I drew a lot of attention, most of it unintended. You see, the cardboard was a lot wider than had at first thought and consequently as I forced my through the streets, I couldn’t help but hit everyone I passed. Luckily after reading my sandwich board they found the funny side of it. I even got interviewed by a Japanese TV station at one stage.
An hour of laughter however did not result in me finding a ticket and so we decided to leave the scene, minus both our sandwich board and my dignity.
Overnight, following the peace of advice that the kind journalist offered me about attire, I had googled for suit hire shops. I knew from this that a shop was near to us, five minutes in fact. With this option being one of our last, Rob and I decided that we would make made the trek with fingers crossed. Once we found the shop (a fancy-dress shop to be specific!) it wasn’t long before we found my Tux. Like Clark Kent entering a phone booth and seconds later exiting as a superhero, I too took only moments to transform from a desperate nobody wearing shorts and t-shirt into a James Bond-esque character (minus style, car and dignity of course).
My mission was clear, I had to find a date. With a the energetic Rob never more than a few yards away holding a camera, and me looking like I meant business, suddenly I felt like something might happen. Perhaps someone would mistake us for a legitimate film crew, or at least me as a TV personality?
We were now only an hour from the premiere event and more suited people also started to make themselves seen. The men were regal whilst the ladies were glamorous. Surely these people were headed for the Red Carpet. Understandably, my angle of approaching single females and asking if they wanted a Red carpet date did not work very well. It did however lead us to a ticketing entry point that gave me hope. Legitimate ticket holders would go inside this area to pick-up their tickets before leaving again. Unbelievably however, standing at this entry/exit point ready to pester the ticket holder were more Red Carpet hopefuls like me. How could I tell? Well they were all dressed immaculately, standing side by side holding small pieces of paper with plea’s for spare tickets and invites. I was not the only one!
So cunning were these guys in fact that they had formed a tunnel that the ticket holders would have to walk through in order to exit. It was an act of begging so desperate that naturally I joined the end of the tunnel and joined in.
After ten minutes of seeing no positive results with anyone, I looked at Rob and nodded. We were both thinking the same thing; it was time for Plan C. Time was not on our side and we now only minutes away from celebrities walking down the Red Carpet. Plan C was my last and only option.
I approached a nearby police officer and asked him a question that was pivotal to Plan C,
“Excuse me, what would happen if I jumped the fence and ran onto the Red carpet?”
His response came by way of laughter, luckily.
After a humorous 30 second conversation we had covered topics including wrestling, tazering, imprisonment and fines. In short, if caught trying to illegally make it onto the carpet, the consequence was definitely negative.
Rob and I made a B-line for the traffic island which was the closest point to the actual red carpet and somehow managed to talk our way past police who were now shutting off walkways, promenades and all manor of others things in the name of security. It seemed to have doubled if not tripled in the last hour before the event and chances of getting to the carpet were looking slim at best. I tried to hide my nerves that were now peaking. I was close to making a bad decision.
Although it was only 1 road that separated the traffic island that we were now on from the Red Carpet, body guards and police lined each side heavily, standing only 5 metres apart. The two closest guards to me I named Bish and Bosh. They were so close I could almost smell them.
Bish, Bosh and there colleagues were guarding this road extra heavily as very shortly celebrities would be chauffeured along it until they reached the beginning of the carpet. At this point, their door would be opened and they would exit to behold this media circus that had been created. I was literally no more than 15 metres from the carpet.
The show soon began and with the onset of music came the stars. Celebrity’s have never been my preferred topic of knowledge and to be honest when the crowd started cheering and screaming as yet another tall, leggy blonde got out of the car and smiled, I was left scratching my head as to who it was. Embarrassingly, I did recognize Jean Claude Van Damme.
As each celebrity made their way from the car to our traffic island to sign autographs and then back across the road to enter the red carpet, Bish and Bosh would scour the crowd, hold their ear pieces and crack their knuckles. These weren’t just any security guys, they looked straight from the set of the movie The Bodyguard starring Kevin Costner.
The biggest yell of the evening was reserved for the last car in which sat Russell Crowe. As he exited his car and waved at the crowd, I knew I had to talk with him. My theory that he would help me as I too was Australian was admittedly weak, but it was either that or risk my health by jumping the fence. All I had to do was get his attention,
“Russell, it’s me, Sebastian!”
From two rows back, my cries for help were drowned out by hysterical screams from everyone else present at Cannes and within seconds, Russell had crossed the road and vanished onto the carpet for his photos.
This meant one thing; I had to jump the fence. Shit.
Wanting to avoid a kamikaze style run which would see a glorious, but obvious, fence-jump into the waiting arms of our friends Bish and Bosh, I needed to pick a moment when they were not looking directly at me. If I was able to evade them, perhaps I could walk straight past the other 50 or so guards that stood between me and the carpet
This moment miraculously presented itself shortly after Russell reached the carpet. For some reason, Bish looked the left whilst Bosh looked the right. Before I knew it, I had already ducked my head under the fence and was standing out on the road by myself. With no thought, I surprised my self by remaining calm and simply walked towards the carpet as if I belonged there.
I must have been watching the actions of Bish and Bosh too much, and I decided to place my right index finger to my right ear as if listening to my own make-believe ear peace. Expecting to get pulled to the ground at any moment, my feet just kept walking as I stared at the ground. In such an adrenalin-fuelled state I hardly realized at this point that I had reached the other side of the road without notice. My heart raced like it hadn’t before.
The entrance to the Red Carpet, which was now directly in front of me, had now been narrowed seeing as all the guests had arrived. Only realizing this late, I had no option but to continue my course towards it. On either side stood another 2 security guards. I felt my luck was about to run out. All I could do was start muttering random words into the collar of my shirt (I presume that is where a microphone would be if I actually had a microphone) in an attempt to make them think I was some kind of security personnel.
One guard paid no attention to me but the other one stepped into my walking line and attempted to make eye contact. Still speaking to myself, finger in ear, I didn’t know what to do and so I just continued to walk in an arrogant manor (someone had suggested I do this). Don’t ask me why, but for some reason the guard stepped aside and let me through untouched.
With my eyes firmly focused on the ground, my heart almost exploded as I saw the very corner of the red carpet only a few steps away. Two Police officers stood again in my way but they weren’t going to stop me at close range. With one exaggerated step that no doubt made me look like a complete clown, I leant back and extended one leg out at full stretch in front of me, poking it directly between the two police officers, landing it right on the red carpet.
I almost overbalanced and fell over, but managed to avoid this before being let through again.
I was properly on the red carpet! Not only this but I was walking around freely. I turned around and waved at a distant Rob who was still stuck next to step ladders on the island, and then continued my stroll.
This was the beginning of a 30 minute period of fun. In that time I managed to get some photos with the tall, leggy blondes, chat to a few people who earlier people were screaming at and even have a joke with Benicio Del Toro about eating Beetroot.
As the A-listers all entered the building, I stood alone on the red carpeted steps smiling to myself. Against all odds I had made it onto the Red Carpet at Cannes on the opening day.
As I walked back towards Rob, a throng of people had made there way to the fence bordering the edge of the carpet, hanging on to the last glimpses of the people they had come to see. Just before I excused my self to the security guards who had earlier let me in, one man shouted out at me, holding a peace of paper and a pen. He wanted an autograph. I don’t know who was more surprised, him or I, but I leant over the barrier and signed the following;
“Number 98- Walk the Red Carpet: COMPLETE. Sebastian Terry”
The Video, courtesy of Live Every Litre