Star Power Pretty Dim at Cannes

Times Staff Writer

The publicist was tired, and it took just one drink for candor to set in.

“We used to get stars here,” came the lament. “Garbo came here. Now we get Maruschka .”

“Maruschka” is Maruschka Detmers, a young actress featured in Cannon’s “Hanna’s War,” and, judging from the movie posters around town, she is lovely.

But she isn’t Garbo or Newman or Loren, or any of the famous faces in the 8x10-inch glossy photographs that adorn every cafe and pizza parlor here.


To hear old hands tell it, Cannes has suffered some serious erosion in star power over the years.

The film festival was started 41 years ago by the French government, at least partly to bring visitors to the Riviera during the off-season.

On that score, it remains a colossal success. This year, about 20,000 are expected to attend, in spite of the rainy weather and the prices that run double the going rate in Beverly Hills ($9 for a 1-ounce Cognac from the hotel room mini-bar).

Some of moviedom’s very important people are part of the crowd.


Lorimar movie chief Bernie Brillstein is at the Hotel Majestic, ground zero for the executive heavyweights. But he’s apparently dodging questions about Lorimar-Telepictures’ pending acquisition by Warner Communications Inc. Brillstein canceled a summary press conference after the merger was announced.

Motion Picture Assn. of America President Jack Valenti, a Cannes perennial, spent Sunday sleeping off the jet lag but was in full motion by Monday morning. Deposed Columbia Chairman David Puttnam is scheduled to arrive by Friday, in time for a planned tribute to director David Lean at the British pavilion. And Creative Artists Agency’s Michael Ovitz, International Creative Management’s Sam Cohn and Universal’s Tom Pollock are already working the party circuit and hotel corridors.

But there’s no Palm d’Or for the best deal, and executives, say the veterans, are poor substitutes for superstars such as Brigitte Bardot, Jeanne Moreau, Yves Montand or Francois Truffaut, who came here to linger in the glory days of European cinema.

“The amazing thing is that the festival has managed to bear up as well as it has, given what’s happened to European film making,” said writer-director Paul Schrader, who first came to Cannes more than 10 years ago.


Actually, the star roster is better than in some past years, when Brian Dennehy was considered a good catch.

Clint Eastwood, as a director, will be here to promote “Bird,” his tribute to jazz great Charlie Parker. Robert De Niro is scheduled for a stop in connection with “Dear America,” a Vietnam documentary that he helped narrate. Robert Redford and others dropped in briefly to plug “The Milagro Beanfield War,” and Arnold Schwarzenegger booked a four-day stint to help sell Carolco’s “Red Heat.”

(The French receptionist at the office of United International Pictures, which is handling “Willow” abroad, said: “We have no information” as to whether George Lucas will come for the film’s closing of the festival.)

Mostly, however, you get Maruschka--along with Rosanna Arquette (“Big Blue”), Max von Sydow (“Pelle the Conqueror”), Bob Hoskins (“The Raggedy Rawney”), Peter Coyote (“Heart of Midnight”) and dozens of other not-quite-first-magnitude stars whose films need the sort of boost a glamour-hungry festival crowd can offer.


If Cannes ’88 has a real star, it is probably Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun Times movie writer and bespectacled bigger half of Siskel & Ebert.

It is de rigueur this year to have “just bumped into Roger,” and his Cannes notebook, “Two Weeks in the Midday Sun,” has achieved the status of required-reading.

Even the publicists seem to fret more about Ebert than about their clients.

“You know, Roger had a hard time getting in. I hear he had food poisoning,” one publicists said.


“It’s true,” confirmed another at the Majestic, “I just bumped into Roger. . . .”