This morning’s César Award nominations set Twitter and the media ablaze in France, but not for the usual who’s in/who’s out debate. The reason for today’s increased gusto was that listed amongst the noms for the Césars, the local equivalent to the Oscars, is a supporting turn for Julie Gayet in Bertrand Tavernier’s political satire Quai D’Orsay. The accomplished actress and producer has famously been linked to an alleged affair with France’s president, François Hollande, since earlier this year. That alone, it’s been suggested, could give Canal Plus its best-ever ratings for the César ceremony when the kudofest airs February 28. Last year’s César ceremony drew 2.58M viewers, one of Canal’s top three scores since it started broadcasting the show in 1994. But let’s be honest, the Césars are usually a snoozefest, and even sometimes an embarrassment. I’ve been attending or following the show for more than 15 years and there have been plenty of groan-worthy moments including fumbling attempts to “Oscarize” the proceedings with the host being inserted into clips of the nominated films à la Billy Crystal. One French exec I spoke with today said of Gayet’s nomination, “Well in that case, I’ll definitely watch!”
Here’s some background on why: The French are soaking up a sort of delicious ironie of Gayet picking up her first ever César nomination for a role in a politically themed movie set inside the Foreign Affairs Ministry (see the trailer here). What’s more, as France’s Premiere magazine pointed out this morning and, as Twitter keeps tweeting, her character’s name is Valérie — the first name of President Hollande’s longtime companion, Valérie Trierweiler, who moved into the Elysée Palace with him post-election and from whom he has now split. Unlike in the U.S., the private lives of politicians have often been able to remain free of intense scrutiny in France. But the current situation surrounding Hollande, while unconfirmed, is blurring the lines. So, did the members of France’s Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma offer up a Gallic shrug today over the scandal that’s been making headlines at home and abroad? Académie president Alain Terzian told France’s 20 Minutes this morning, “It’s a matter of chance… I don’t think the voters have been influenced by recent events.” It remains to be seen if Gayet will attend the César ceremony, but she won’t be out of the spotlight for long: She’s understood to be dubbing the voice of Nicole Kidman in the Cannes Film Festival opener Grace Of Monaco.