Happy days and nights in Deauville for Michael Douglas and Steven Soderberg.
Despite his reported marital difficulties and separation from his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones whom he met at the Deauville American Film Festival in 1997, Michael Douglas returned to the Normandy resort looking tanned, relaxed and in fine fettle for Friday's gala opening with his HBO film Behind the Candelabra (due for a French release on September 18).
Signing a clutch of red carpet autographs and posing obligingly for both professional and amateur photographs, Douglas, accompanied by director Steven Soderberg, worked the crowds before entering the vast underground arena of the glitzy CID auditorium for the opening ceremony of the 39th edition.
On stage, Douglas thanked Soderberg for putting the project on hold while he battled his throat cancer. He said the prospect of playing the part helped him through the rigours of treatment.
“I want to take a moment now to personally thank Steven and Matt (Damon, who co-stars in the film), for waiting for me. It changed it everything else through the cancer that a movie like this was waiting for me, and for that, Steven, I will be eternally grateful.”
Referring to concerns about his health both emotional and physical he said with a smile: “People have been kindly asking how I’m doing. Well I put on a suit tonight - one that I can’t come close to buttoning - so everything must be OK.”
Douglas and Soderbergh received a standing ovation - and later repaired to the town's Casino for a black tie dinner.
Soderbergh suggested the Festival held a special significance for him because of the historical ties between French and American movies which were born almost in the same year via Thomas Edison and the Lumiere Brothers. “A lot of people don’t understand the connection that American and French cinema have. I like to come to Deauville, to be part of that fraternity.”
French actor and Jury president Vincent Lindon recounted an anecdote about being swept aside by paparazzi while on holiday in New York when they were trying to get a picture of Bradley Cooper and gave him short shrift as he emerged from his hotel with his wife and children. He then proceeded to give a fair imitation of Robert DeNiro in Mean Streets.
On Saturday, Douglas faced a barrage of questions from the media about his professional rather than his personal life. He accused today's studios of playing it safe with mainstream blockbusters although he detected the tide might be changing with many of the summer's big titles finding a lukewarm audience response while outside the States Behind The Candelabra was scoring highly with audiences and critics.
Behind the Candelabra was financed by HBO and shown to an audience of eight million on television in the States but wasn't released there in cinemas. The project had been taken to various film companies who all passed on it before finding television finance.