STORY: That's One Way to Meet a (French) Movie Star - Part II
[Continued from I. Ooh La La in Egypt]
Skip across southern France, through four wild days in Barcelona (and a story unto itself) and up to a rather small and no-nothing office in downtown Paris, France in June of 1997. The film distribution company was probably Polygram, I've deduced based on three minutes of internet research. It wasn't any great shakes of a space, but they had the posters up on the wall and our Frenchie friend worked there and she was sweet as ever and happy to see us, but terribly busy and very sorry because she had no time to hang out with us. She was, however, a woman of her word and gave us two tickets to the big premiere. The film was called Dobermann and it co-starred Monica Bellucci and Tcheky Karyo, who I was most excited about since I'd actually heard of him. He'd been in La Femme Nikita.
We were in and out of her Paris office in about nine minutes. She gave us the tickets and said her goodbye and apologized again, this time because she was so sorry not to have been able to score us wristbands for the after party. Suffice it to say this was more than OK to Jon and I who were only beginning to realize that this was real, and our luck. Going to the premiere was more than enough for us. We certainly didn't expect more. Still, she gave us her cell number and told us to call after the movie just in case she could get some wristbands. We said we would. We gave hugs and French kisses and very nearly skipped our way out of her office. Jon and I both. We were going to a movie premiere in Paris.
It didn't matter that I had come down with a cold from hell, or that our best outfits were short sleeve shirts tucked into khaki pants. We wore our hiking shoes because it was that or sandals. Still, I stuffed some Kleenex into my pockets, tucked shirt into khakis and off we went, literally walking up the red carpet, under a kind of tent like marquee outside the theatre one not especially hot June night in Paris.
Blame the head cold or the trip to Amsterdam a week later, but memory goes fuzzy around now. I like to think there were photographers and flashing bulbs. I recall Jon and I laughing as the bulbs stopped flashing when we walked up the red carpet. I recall me punching Jon in the arm not believing any of it was real. I recall sniffing hard through my nose so I wouldn't drip all over that red carpet.
But there we were, Jon, me and the who's who of Paris in their black-tie finery. It didn't matter. We were excited as hell. It was a great grand theatre and before the movie started the director and the stars came up on stage and gave a little speech, all in French. Again, no matter.
Then the film. In French, of course. No matter. Luckily the picture was all style and plenty of action. You really didn't need a huge linguistic entrance point to understand the story, that we could tell. Leather plus techno music plus guns equals cool. Get it. We got it. It was fun. We were hip. It was a premiere in Paris. OK so we kind of already knew before the film was done that this wasn't going to go down in history as the greatest film in French film history, but still.
We called our French friend after cause what the hell. I was actually sick enough to just want to go home, but, of course, as per our luck thus far she came through. She had the wristbands. She had someone meet us. (I don't actually remember the details of how we got the wristbands, but we did - ask Jon; it's all true.) The point: we were going to the after-party.
Live abroad, somewhere not home, and not Hollywood. Let's say Japan. When you are in another world it's all surreal, from the dirty to the pretty, from the poor to the rich. I tell you this because celebrity in an other world like that doesn't mean nearly so much.
A few years after our trip Jon would return to Paris to spend a year working there. Only then did he learn and relay back to me that the club where the after-party was held was one of the chicest in all Paris. At the time we probably took that as a given but it was all part of the whirlwind. Cause who the hell were we and how the hell was any of this happening to us?
To two Canadian boys on a fairly tight daily travel budget, far more exciting than the assumed chicness of the place and darkness of its ambience was that the food was all you can eat and the drink was all you can drink your face off. The sick loser of us two wasn't able to indulge quite as he might have liked in the latter. Still I managed to drink a little, Jon a lot and we did well with the eating.
I remember us first grabbing a table in this downstairs club. Jon got us drinks and we toasted each other and our good luck and that we couldn't believe this was real. Also, clearly we were now among the beautiful people. And at a party like that you can't help but look around a lot to see who has just come down the stairs. Cause who doesn't want to meet a movie star?
Which brings us to the greatest coup of the whole evening, when I went to line up for food at the buffet table. There were shrimp salads and cuts of beef (Jon's laughing as he reads this, knowing this is all to be part of my imagination since I actually have no memory of what was served - I can tell you it was impressive, and that there had to have been beef, there had to have been seafood). Either way it was all the fancy fancy you hope to eat for free at the after -party of a big slick French action movie. But more fun than the free drink or the free food was that it turned out I was in line to get mine behind the very star of the movie. I had not known him then, would only go on to see the now widely revered art-house film La Haine years later, and only very recently has Vincent Cassel became something of a known name around the world (and if you don't know his name: see Black Swan - he is the teacher).
As we scooped ourselves shrimp salads (or was it crab) and pierced us each slices of roast beef (or maybe beef tenderloin?) we got to chatting. I was barely twenty. He was barely thirty. At the time I thought I was going to be an actor and so got to asking him for advice. He was a sincerely nice guy, seemed to have all the time in the world for me and told me to keep at it.
I shrug as I admit to you that the conversation ran out soon after. I asked him a bit about how he came to be an actor and that kind of thing. He again was charming and never condescending to the cut of my khakis or the dirty laces of my hiking shoes. But, as often happens, if ever you've met a famous person, there's only so much that can be said. Eventually he went his way and I went mine, trying to ride out the night best I could, with a very runny nose and a friend who was enjoying much drink.
Within a few hours we were back at our hostel (the Three Ducks), back on budget and back on the trail for more adventure. Our French friend never fell for either of us, and Vincent Cassel and I didn't become the best of friends, but hell, at least we'd come home with a story.