Baz Luhrmann followed up his biggest opening day in America with his biggest opening day in France as The Great Gatsby took in $78K in partial-day results that still were bigger than his Moulin Rouge and Australia. Understandably in a party mood thanks to the overperformance of his U.S. box office last weekend, the director pronounced himself pleased with one of the most elaborate after-parties which Cannes has seen since Moulin Rouge premiered here in 2001. Warner Bros co-hosted the gala event with Gatsby‘s other key financier, Village Roadshow. “I love it. I think Jay Gatsby would have loved it too. ‘Screw the rain,’ he would have said,” Luhrmann laughed.
The Cannes celebration of its opening-night film continued into the early morning hours despite a monsoon-like downpour. When I left around 2 AM, though, the party showed no sign of winding down. Luhrmann was frequently out on the dance floor whooping it up with the likes of Warner Bros worldwide marketing czarina Sue Kroll (“When you open the festival, you have to spend a good amount of money on the party,” Kroll told me), his co-star Isla Fisher, and his WME agent Robert Newman. Also there was the festival guru Thierry Fremaux, who told me that the first film he ever programmed when he first snagged the prestigious Cannes gig was Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge.
Luhrmann said he was now really optimistic about the global box office for Gatsby and mentioned that it held strong on Monday and Tuesday in North America. He wasn’t shy admitting that last weekend was a “nervous time” for the filmmaking team until the results showed audiences weren’t driven away by “mixed” reviews. (Clearly there seems to be a group of pseudo-critics who like to try and take down a movie, and this was their target. But the audience rebelled.) Luhrmann addressed that issue at the film’s press conference earlier. “I made Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet and even Strictly Ballroom and I never got one of those big high critics’ scores,” he said. “I just care that people are going out and seeing it, and I am really moved by that.”
Warner Bros Motion Picture Group President Jeff Robinov told me Wednesday’s numbers in France were very encouraging, only confirming the release strategy that saw Gatsby moved from an awards-season berth in December to a summer opening in May — going up against all the action tentpoles and, so far, succeeding. Get a clue, Hollywood: There is a huge audience of women and others looking for something different in the summer months. Like a romance starring Leonardo DiCaprio, who was holding court with the other VIPs in the roped-off upstairs area and told me he was concerned about “the critics crapping on it” early on in Gatsby‘s run. But the film has rebounded from that, and DiCaprio is very proud of this one since he gives a strong performance that outstrips earlier Hollywood attempts to tackle the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel that was written just 20 miles outside of Cannes. DiCaprio’s Django Unchained co-star Christoph Waltz, a member of this year’s Cannes jury, was embracing Leo at the party and singing the film’s praises. I overheard Sacha Baron Cohen, husband of co-star Fisher, telling her how much jury head Steven Spielberg said he loved the film after Wednesday night’s well-received screening. And mega-producer Brian Grazer, a guest at the Cannes premiere, brought Luhrmann over to meet his daughter, who said she loved Gatsby, as did Grazer.
As for the party, the fireworks display was truly spectacular even seen from inside of the elaborate but sometimes dripping tent Warners erected for the evening. The music provided by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra and singer Florence Welch was perfectly pitched for the evening, though a rumor that Jay-Z, who worked on the Gatsby soundtrack, would perform never panned out. The party reminded Cinedigm topper Chris McGurk of the big $2 million bash MGM threw in 2004 for DeLovely. “It’s not cheap in Cannes,” he said. Then again Kroll, as a former head of international marketing, assured me that Cannes will be enormously important for Gatsby‘s overseas rollout this weekend and that’s why she has been a big supporter of the festival whether debuting large films or small.