As someone who has worked in the media industry for ten plus years, and has a passion for sustainability and environmentalism, Leonardo DiCaprio is someone that I have always looked up to as a person in the limelight who has attempted to use his stardom for good. While Leo isn’t perfect, we appreciate when someone with a platform uses it to promote a good cause. We have featured Leo on Going Green in the past, and have even been featured on his social media platform. This is why, when I was working as a bartender in the South of France, and found out Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie, The Great Gatsby was premiering, I decided sneaking into the Cannes Film Festival was a good idea.
When You’re Young You Have Less To Lose
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s legendary protagonist did whatever it took in life for his dreams to become reality. Characters like these are exactly why we escape into a great novel; they inflame our spirits with the courage to have a vision and the inspiration to chase our dreams. Jay Gatsby’s vision was to marry Daisy Buchanan. My vision was to sneak into the Great Gatsby premiere at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
I wanted to sip Shiraz. I wanted to feed on Foie Gras. I wanted to blend with the bourgeois. To do all of these things, I traveled to the French Riviera for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. With the last of my money, I bought a new suit. This suit to me was like the green light to Gatsby; it was a representation of what the future might be, and a reminder of what the past once was.
When I arrived in Cannes, I walked up to the famous Ritz Carlton Hotel like I owned the place. A combination of bravado and equanimity gave me the courage to walk right past the security guards. Nervously, I did what anyone else would do once I made it inside: I went straight to the bar.
The bar was stocked with only the finest liquors; a $60,000 Dalmore 62 Scotch acted as the centerpiece. I ordered a $15 bottle of Heinekin, the least expensive drink on the menu. With some liquid courage, I decided to explore the hotel. The floor of the hotel was white Italian marble; a two-story chandelier was the center of attention in the lobby. I took the elevator to the top floor where Sean Penn and Sharron Stone have their own private suites. I strutted past Roman Polanski and his entourage.
While I was exploring the hotel, I noticed two grandeur double doors. I was drawn to these doors the way Danny Torrence was drawn to Room 237 in The Shining. Two security guards held the doors open as I entered the hotel’s ballroom. The walls were gold and the frescoes on the ceiling rivaled Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Blonde waitresses walked around with glasses of Dom Perignon. While I marveled at the spread of hor d’oeuvres, someone started speaking into a microphone.
“Welcome, everyone, to the Question and Answer portion of the new ‘Pele’ documentary, and here is the star of the film: Pele!”
Pele walked on stage 10 feet away from me. Being a stereotypical American, I knew nothing about soccer, excuse me, football, but I knew who Pele was. I was standing next to the greatest soccer player in history. I said “hi” to Pele. I drank some champagne. I knew the celebrations would be starting soon, so made my way over to The Great Gatsby premiere.
When I arrived at the film festival, the crowd was so big I could not even see the red carpet. I did not come to the Cannes Film Festival for this, so I maneuvered my way to the front of the crowds. Were people happy about that? Of course not, but who cares, they’re French. I was that guy at a concert who arrived late and shoved his way to the front row.
Similar to a concert, there was a fence that separated the spectators from the photographers and the press. To keep spectators out of the press section, there were French police officers every fifteen feet, making sure no one got out of line. No one dared to test them. I waited until one of the police officers turned away and I whipped it past the fence and booked it to the other side. I heard their boots. They yelled something in French. I felt a hand grab at my shoulder. I juked left and went right. I slipped into the crowd and got lost in the sea of photographers.
The Film Festival itself is held inside the Palais de Festival des Congres, which is French for The Palace of the Festival of Cannes. It is a colossal white building that overlooks the sandy coast of the Mediterranean. There are a total of 18 different auditoriums in the Palace. It is over 80,000 square feet modern French architecture.
In order to get inside the Palace, you had to have a professional Cannes Film Festival badge. Checking the badges were three muscular police officers. Security was comparable to the Pentagon, but I made it too far to give up.
I held up my driver’s license and pushed my way through the crowd, avoiding eye contact with any security guards. With a little bit of luck, and a lot of timing, I slipped between two police officers as they checked other people’s badges. There were butterflies in my stomach when an angry looking security guard patted down my entire body. Reluctantly, he let me in.
The screening of the Great Gatsby was in the main theatre called The Grande Lumiere. There was no way I could get into the main theatre without a ticket. Like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, I had to choose between love and virtue; should I do the right thing and turn back now, or should I follow my heart and keep on going?
I searched every inch for an alternative entrance. Finally, I found a set of doors that looked official. Glancing around to see if anyone was looking, I entered them, and found myself in the underbelly of the Palais. I was walking through hallways with doors that led to projection rooms, and back offices. I passed a door labeled Policia. I casually walked away from there as fast as I could. I found an elevator. I pressed the 1st floor.
When the doors open, I could hear a faint buzz. The hive was close, and I was the beekeeper ready to take their honey. I followed the sound. I turned a corner. I went through a door. I went up a staircase. I pushed open another door. This time I wasn’t in a hallway. This door opened up to the main lobby of the Grand Theatre Lumiere. When I glanced back at the door I came through all I saw was “Do Not Enter”, so much for my virtuous side.
Finally, I had made it inside the theatre.
I found myself in the final stage of getting into the premiere, however I was only in the lobby of the main theatre. I still wasn’t inside the auditorium yet. There were 4 entrances, two security guards per entrance. I took a deep breath, and made my move to the door. Halfway through security grabbed my arm. I’m done. Busted. Mission failed. You can now catch me on an episode of “Locked Up Abroad,”
Security “Ticket, sir”
Dylan “Oh, I was just inside, I left my ticket at my seat.”
Security “I haven’t seen you in here,”
Dylan “I just walked by five minutes ago, I left to use the bathroom.”
Security “Well, where is your ticket?”
Dylan “I just told you, it’s inside, my girlfriend is holding onto it.”
Security “Let me grab my boss”
They wouldn’t let me in. I pretended to call my fake girlfriend when a stampede of people came spilling out of the doors. The Q&A just ended and there was a fifteen-minute intermission until the movie started. I ditched the security guard by slipping in with the crowd. Just in case security followed me, I took a detour into the closest bathroom. I was just about to enter the bathroom when Tobey Maguire walked out, almost bumping into me.
“Tobey,” I stuck my hand out, “Huge fan, great work.”
Toby took my hand and shook it, somewhat surprised and caught off guard by this sudden interaction.
Across the room I spotted the security guard.
“Good luck in the premiere!”
I sprinted into the bathroom.
My only thought at the time was that Tobey Maguire was really short. In the bathroom I splashed some water on my face. Am I really in the Cannes Film Festival right now? Did I really just shake Tobey Maguire’s hand? With some newfound confidence I cased the entrances again. This time, the lobby was filled Hollywood’s elite, brimming with esoteric knowledge and Machiavellian intentions. The lights flashed on and off. The film was about to start. There, at the last door on the left, I saw a little old lady checking tickets. I walked right by her and smiled. She smiled back.
I felt like Danny Ocean when he cracked the vault at the Belaggio. I was inside the auditorium. I casually walked up and down the aisles. I didn’t want to sit in anyone else’s seat. As each vacant seat became occupied the lights slowly started to fade. Panic started to set in, and my heart began to race. The opening credits started to roll; when out of the darkness I noticed an empty seat. I made my move. I found the only empty seat in the house. Sitting down in that red velvet seat felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was free. I had made it. No one was going to mess with me now. I realized I didn’t have a set of 3D glasses, so I called over an usher and asked her for a set. She rushed off and grabbed me a pair.
I sat back in my seat and enjoyed the premiere of The Great Gatsby. I was thoroughly impressed with Leo’s performance and the overall production of the film. Jay-Z’s musical input complimented the 1920’s era with a modern feel. My only complaint is that when I read the book I didn’t vision Gatsby’s hair to be so shiny.
I strolled out of the premiere like I was Gatsby himself. Not even Tom Buchanan could have kept me away from the next Daisy Buchanan I saw.
After the premiere, I waited for a taxi. As I did, a blonde woman in a red dress came up to me.
Red Dress “Do you know where the after party for the Great Gatsby is?”
Dylan “Can’t say I do.”
Red Dress “Did you go to the premiere?”
Dylan “Yeah, I snuck into it,”
Red Dress “No way,”
Dylan “I made it past five security check points. I almost got arrested, twice. I even shook Tobey’s hand. I did what everyone else in the film industry wishes they had the balls to do.”
Red Dress “That is unbelievable. What are you doing here in the French Riviera?
Dylan “I’m a driver in the F1 Monaco Grand Prix race, what about you?”
Red Dress “My parents own the F. Scott Fitzgerald museum in America, so I got to see it last Monday.”
Dylan “That’s really interesting, but here’s my taxi,”
Red Dress “It was nice meeting you!”
My taxi pulled up, and I got in, but something crossed my mind. Just as the driver was getting ready to pull away, I made him stop. I jumped out of the car and ran back inside.
Dylan “Hey, are you going to be in the French Riviera for a while?”
Red Dress “Yeah”
Dylan “Would you want to grab dinner with me?”
Red Dress “Sure, here’s my card, call me!”
I hopped in the taxi, and drove off into the night. Fade to black.
Looking back on that day, I learned a lot about the film industry. It is almost comical how superficial the whole scene is. An ostentatious suit, combined with an heir of pretentious confidence, allowed me to walk into one of the biggest events in film history. It’s all just a show. Now I know why James Cameron descended to the bottom of the Mariana Trench – because of how shallow everyone in Hollywood is.
I learned a lot about myself that day. Ever since I was a kid I had dreams of working in the film industry. After seeing how trivial it all is, I’m seriously considering a career change. Maybe I’ll be a racecar driver. Maybe I’ll be a college professor. Maybe I’ll marry the daughter of the owners of the F. Scott Fitzgerald museum. Maybe I’ll do whatever it takes to make my dreams become my reality.
So, Grace McPhillips, if you’re reading this, I’m still waiting for that dinner.
Dylan Welch is the CEO and Host of Going Green, a podcast, website, and social media brand that highlights renewable energy, cleantech, and sustainable news.