An estimated €30 million ($33.4 million) was raised at the 22nd annual amfAR Cinema Against Aids Gala in Cannes on Thursday night, an event that again proved to be the most glamorous and star-studded of the festival. The lavish auction is always the highlight of this dinner, and it didn’t disappoint, led by the €12 million for Jeff Koon’s Coloring Book. Billionaire Leonard Blavatnik was the winning bidder, just as he was for last year’s big item. It was expected to go even higher, but that was a huge sum.
Others included Fernando Botero’s Donna su Cavallo, which grabbed €2 million; Picasso’s L’Erreinte going for €700,000; Jenny Holzer’s 3 for €350,000; Marc Quinn’s Portrait for €550,000; and Alexander Calder’s Untitled, also for €550,000. One of the celebrity auctioneers, Eva Longoria, turned around and paid €550,000 herself for a signed Andy Warhol lithograph of Elizabeth Taylor called Liz. And Leonardo DiCaprio, who was at the dinner with his mother and her significant other, donated a prized Banksy entitled Copper On Cardboard, which went for a cool million. And another €250,000 was raised to attend an event for his foundation that sounded pretty cool.
Other items included a Harry Winston Epic Cluster Necklace for €450,000, a wine and spirits package for €70,000, a neat Venza By Redemption Chopper bike for €300,000, a 14-night stay for 12 people at a private Maldives resort for €250,000, and The Weinstein Company and Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s awards package that includes tickets to the Golden Globes, several Oscar parties, and a trip to the Royal Premiere of the new James Bond film in London. That nabbed €220,000. A private photo session with world-famous photographer Mario Testino took €350,000. The Black and White collection of designer dresses curated by Carine Roitfeld took in €800,000, though that was well under what the Red Collection took last year. It was proceeded by a lively fashion show that again was one of the evening’s highlights. Another was when celeb auctioneer Chris Tucker pulled off a coup managing to get two bidders to pay a million each for a private evening with singer Andrea Bocelli, who also performed at the ritzy gala which draws the creme de la creme of European society to the Hotel Du Cap each year toward the end of the Cannes Film Festival.
Performers offering short sets included Charli XCX, Mary J. Blige and a longer stint from show closer Imagine Dragons, who really brought it home. The presenting sponsors were Harry Winston and Bold Films, with The Weinstein Company as a signature sponsor. Longtime Cinema Against AIDS champion Harvey Weinstein helped open the proceedings saying that over 22 years the event has raised more than $140 million. He also presented a toast to France. “This was an extraordinary year for the French. They have always been a gracious host, and their country is magical. And I cannot forget the strength of the French, and the strength the French have shown and especially in what happened with Charlie Hebdo. No one can defeat the ability of brave artists to show us our world. Je Suis Charlie. Vive Le France. And one thing: In the movies good triumphs over evil, and for France remember it happens in life too,” he said. Kenneth Cole, amfAR chairman for the past 10 years, also spoke and told me later it is hard to put out an exact number of what has been raised here in Cannes this year because they have to collect it and it gets complicated, but it is “in the area of €30 million.”
Among members of the Cannes Competition jury present were presidents Joel Coen (with wife Frances McDormand) and Ethan Coen, Sienna Miller there with her Foxcatcher director Bennett Miller, Xavier Dolan and Jake Gyllenhaal who, nice guy that he is, told me he has newfound respect for people like me who spend most of their time in movies and then have to write about them. He said his experience on the jury this year (though he also did Berlin once) has been a real eye-opener for the level of work involved just in seeing films and assessing them. Isabella Rossellini, head of the Un Certain Regard jury was also there sitting next to Tom Ford all night. She’s had a great festival just staring at that photo of her mother, Ingrid Bergman, that is everywhere as the official Cannes poster this year. Ford, the fashion icon and film director (A Single Man), told me he is so excited to be starting his second film, Nocturnal Animals, which will star Gyllenhaal — they talked a long time before dinner started — and Amy Adams and “two other really good names,” he said. It rolls October 1, and he’s proud that it became the biggest deal of the festival for a reported $20 million in rights to Universal and Focus Features.
Oscar winner Adrien Brody, who was among the many celebrities enlisted to help push auction items, has been to many of these things but said he never gets star-struck but does like “watching people.” It’s indeed a great place to people-watch, which I saw Youth and The Great Beauty director Paolo Sorrentino doing. This group of dressed-to-the-nines European high rollers look, in some cases, like they just came out of a Sorrentino movie. Youth co-star Harvey Keitel was an early presenter but then had to leave to get to catch a private jet taking him to Istanbul tomorrow. Another Youth co-star, the gorgeous Madalina Diana Ghenea, who plays Miss Universe and has a memorable nude scene in a hot tub with Michael Caine and Keitel, is lined up for three more movies in a row for the next five months in Europe before moving to L.A. — just in time for the fall release of Oscar contender Truth. She said Caine had good advice for her, which she is going to take. He said her full-on nude scene was great but it should be the first and last one she does like that in a movie. I told Di Caprio that after seeing that extraordinary footage of his new film The Revenant, from three-time Oscar winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu, at last month’s CinemaCon, I can’t wait to see it. It was all shot (by Emmanuel Lubezki) using natural light. “It’s phenomenal. I think it may just change movies,” he said to me.
Among other celebrities on hand were Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender, whose new film Macbeth will be the last Competition film to premiere, on Saturday. Robin Thicke, who was standing on tables singing last year, was more refined this time around as a presenter of an auction item. He even bid on one himself but didn’t get it. John C. Reilly, who is in three films screening at Cannes, was having a great time. But it was McDormand, helping out in the auction, who had the evening’s best and most prescient line about this annual shindig that just gets bigger and bigger: “I’m here to offer you something we haven’t seen tonight — a little piece of subtlety.”