Thursday 22 February 2018

Aisling O’Connor: Bonjour celebrity ...selling movies and lipstick in Cannes

Nicole Kidman attends the 'The Paperboy' premiere during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Nicole Kidman attends the 'The Paperboy' premiere during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival
US actress Kristen Stewart and British actor Tom Sturridge arrive for the screening of "On the Road" presented in competition at the 65th Cannes film festival on May 23, 2012 in Cannes. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/GettyImages)
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 18: Jane Fonda attends the "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" Premiere during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 18, 2012 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 20: Singer Cheryl Cole attend the "Amour" Premiere during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 20, 2012 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
US actress Eva Longoria arrives for the screening of "De Rouille et D'Os" (Rust and Bone) presented in competition at the 65th Cannes film festival on May 17, 2012 in Cannes. AFP PHOTO / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/GettyImages)

THE Cannes Film Festival is the shining icon of all that glitters in movies and celebrity. On this the 65th year of the grand event, the world watches Nice Cote d’Azur airport for big name arrivals. You think looking at the premiere schedule would give you a fair idea of who is attending. Not these days. Every movie wants to garner as much publicity as possible and very often the answer is a very modern form of rent-a-crowd.

Established A-Listers former ‘Desperate Housewives’ TV star Eva Longoria, Frieda Pinto and Jane Fonda, and ,working her way up there, Cheryl Cole jetted to the French Riviera last week and were soon seen flicking their hair over their shoulders on balconies, and parading the finest in designer couture on the red carpet.

Although ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ star Freida actually had a movie to promote there was another task at hand. Pinto, Longoria, Fonda and Cole were the main attractions for the press at a number of high profile premieres and events as ambassadors for one of the festival’s chief sponsors - hair, make-up and skincare super brand, L’Oreal.

Atelier Versace, Marchesa, Stella McCartney, Stephane Rolland, Roberto Cavalli, Emilio Pucci and Geneva based watch-maker Chopard (also a Cannes festival sponsor) also benefited from the press garnered by the A-List non-cast premiere populous this week. As Roberto Cavalli remarked on his Twitter feed yesterday, Cannes is one long fashion show.

So the studios promoting their movies sign up to the festival and if their big stars can’t show (or their big name partners, in the case of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie), there is a host of contractually-bound celebrities at their fingertips, only delighted to oblige and soak up that limelight.

The movie industry is a different place than that showcased at the 15th Cannes Film festival in 1962 where Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood flaunted their goods for the good of the movie. These days it’s a different story. Yes, the movie must be promoted but a celebrity utilises the red carpet to fulfil their endorsement contract, or use the exposure to obtain one.

Diversification is a fact of celebrity. Liz Taylor’s move to perfume with Elizabeth Arden in 1987 was a seminal moment in the entwining of fame and product sales as we now know it. These days every household name in fashion, film and music - from Kim Kardashian to Kate Moss - either has their own perfume or endorses one.

Brad Pitt, he of Brangelina and the forthcoming ‘biggest wedding of the decade after William and Kate’ has bagged himself THE perfume deal. He is the first male face of Chanel No.5 - for women. Brad needn’t worry that Angelina stood him up in Cannes for his ‘Killing Them Softly’ premiere. He’s got his contract to keep him warm and Chanel is delighted to see their new signing atop the headlines.

Reluctant celebrity and Twilight starlet Kristen Stewart broke her permanent scowl to become one of the faces of Balenciaga fragrance. Stewart is a fixture at the brand’s Paris runway shows and regularly showcases its apparel in her promotional wardrobe. Yesterday she wore Balenciaga for both the press call and premiere for her movie ‘On The Road’ in Cannes - a rare occurrence given the amount of free clothing at her disposal.

So celebrity endorsement contracts aren’t just about the print ad or commercial, the brand is very often woven into the personal and working lifestyle. Studios use product placement in movies as a revenue stream, and brand partnered celebrity placement to sell the movie.

On the face of it, a red carpet premiere is a fun celebration of a new movie. What you are really looking at is a live commercial for a host of brands, as well as the sponsors, the actors and the movie itself.

Cannes has always been about celebrating glamour and film. Some stars are there to promote a movie. Some stars like Kristen Stewart, Brad Pitt and Frieda Pinto are there to sell both. For TV star Eva Longoria she needs to forge that post-TV career, and of course sell lipstick.

Aisling tweets @ashinyoconnor

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