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Cannes Diaries: Spending quality time with Brad, Leo, Margot, and Tarantino

  • Published at 08:25 pm May 23rd, 2019

Press conference of 'Once upon a time in Hollywood' at Cannes Film Festival 2019, featuring Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Quentin Tarantino and Margot Robbie Dhaka Tribune

Whenever Tarantino didn’t like a question, which was about half the time, he gave yes and no answers and let the journalists know that their questions were embarrassing

The highlight of the ninth and tenth day at the Cannes Film Festival was Quentin Tarantino’s new film “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.” The movie premiered on Tuesday and the extraordinary cast—plus its eccentric director—joined the press at a cozy press conference the following day. With all the obligatory screenings and other duties throughout the festival, these were the only two occasions when I did a little something for myself with my jury badge. 

Some waited four hours for the screening

Yes. You read that right. Four hours. There were two press screenings on the day of the premiere – one at 4:30pm and the other at 6pm. Even though the other journalists from Bangladesh stood in the line from 2pm for the first screening, they weren’t able to get into the theatre. I, however, waltzed in through the priority line to an almost empty theatre and thanked my lucky stars for getting this preferential treatment – especially during my first time at Cannes. 

As the expectations of every Tarantino movie is sky-high, this movie had critics comparing it to his masterpiece, “Pulp Fiction,” that premiered at Cannes 25 years ago. Whether it is his Magnum Opus is a separate debate. But, on its own, the film is definitely one of the top contenders for a Palme d’Or as well as an Oscar. 

Getting into the press conference was even harder

A priority line formed in front of the press conference room about 45 minutes before the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” press conference with: Quentin Tarantino, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie began. 

This never happens. People with the white badge—and the pink with a dot badge—never need to form a line at Cannes. Maybe it was for this reason (trying to give my esteemed colleagues the benefit of the doubt here really) that the people in the line didn’t seem to know what a line was. They just started standing wherever they pleased, close to the entrance. It was infuriating to see the modest line of 10 people in front of me turn into a fiesta of 50 people within the blink of an eye. That’s another Cannes discovery right there: even the most professional of journalists will elbow their way in to get a story. 

The president of the FIPRESCI jury this year, Paulo Portugal, who has been frequenting this festival for the last twenty years said this is the craziest competition to get into a press conference he has ever seen. 

Writers can’t bring professional cameras

As no one wrote a “Cannes Film Festival Survival Guide” like we are doing right now, I didn’t know you need separate accreditation to bring a professional camera into the Palais des Festivals. You’re either a writer, or a photographer, or a videographer. You can’t get accredited as all of those at the same time. Had I known better, I’d have left my super-heavy 5D Mark 2 with an even heavier 70-300mm lens and brought a light consumer-grade digital camera to capture better images and videos. 

When we got into the relatively-small press conference room—that seats about 300 people—half of the people ran to the table at the front to get a snap of the stars when they walked in. Photographers from the elite press agencies stood at the back of the room with their professional cameras. The official videographer and audience moderator stood by the head table. 

Fifteen minutes after the scheduled time, the stars walked in one-by-one and sat in their designated seats. Festival organizers ardently asked the journalists to lower their phones and take their seats. Since they didn’t care the least about maintaining a queue while letting people in, I didn’t feel too guilty stealing a few snaps here and there. 

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio explain the psychology of their characters, Cliff and Rick, from 'Once upon a time in Hollywood' | Dhaka TribuneTarantino was in charge the whole time

Most of the questions were directed towards the director. Big surprise. Tarantino was in an unusually jolly mood at the beginning. He even talked about his marriage a little bit. 

“I got married six months ago. In fact my wife is sitting in front of you,” Tarantino said while gesturing at Daniela Pick, who was seating in the front row.

“I have never done that before. Now I know why. I was waiting for the perfect girl,” he added to loud cheers.

But whenever he didn’t like a question—which was about half the time—he gave "yes" or "no" answers and let the journalists know that their questions were embarrassing. 

These weren’t just any journalists; some of them were even known to Tarantino. They have been covering this festival for decades and most of them came from renowned media houses. But that didn’t stop the eccentric director from telling them off. 

For instance, a lady from The New York Times asked him why he gave Margot Robbie such little space in the movie when her character had much more importance. Tarantino just said: “I reject your hypothesis.” Then Margot Robbie came to the rescue and answered the question nicely and elaborately. 

Tarantino had made it clear through announcements before every screening that he wants no part of the plot revealed before “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” premieres in theatres worldwide. 

Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie seemed to be choosing their words carefully so as to not spill any beans. Leo, on the other hand, spoke with such eloquence and confidence that it seemed as if his answers were scripted. 

The actors mostly just talked about their characters, but kept fairly quiet throughout the press conference. 

DiCaprio said about his character Rick Dalton: “This guy is sort of on the outskirts of times that are changing, and he is sort of left behind. You know, for me ultimately it is just an immense appreciation I have for the position that I am in. And the fact that this guy is only sort of on his own, struggles with his own pathos, his own ability to gain confidence, and persevere and get those things.”

Brad Pitt played Rick’s stunt double and best friend Cliff. He said about the characters: “What Quentin has created is kind of one individual and it comes down to acceptance. Acceptance of your place, your life, your surroundings, your challenges, your troubles. And, we find in the Rick character, we see someone who is, (laughing) hilariously so, feeling like he wants to quit upon life, and it is not good enough. Life is against him. With some of the greatest breakdown scenes I have ever seen by my friend Leo here. And the Cliff character, that Quentin created, we see a guy who has gone past that in his place of acceptance with his lot in life. Quite at peace. Take whatever comes, and the rest he will figure out as he goes.”

Margot Robbie played the actor Sharon Tate, who was murdered in her home by followers of Charles Manson. Regarding her role Robbie said: “Sometimes I think, as an actor our job is to understand or trying to understand, what purpose our character serves to the story. So more importantly it was why this character was in the story. And to me, well, Quentin said to me early on, ‘She is the heartbeat of the story.’ And for me, I just saw her as a ray of light. And I just wanted her to be in light. And that was my job and my role to serve in this story.” 

The film is in competition for the Palme d’Or this year. Tarantino previously won this coveted prize in cinema for his Black comedy crime film “Pulp Fiction,” released in 1994.

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