Magazine article Screen International

Jeremy Thomas Talks His Cannes Highs and Lows

Magazine article Screen International

Jeremy Thomas Talks His Cannes Highs and Lows

Article excerpt

Screen spoke to the British uber-producer about 46 years of Cannes adventures.

Few living producers are more synonymous with the world's most revered festival than Jeremy Thomas, Oscar-winning producer of The Last Emperor, who has screened 15 films in Official Selection.

"I have a magnet pulling me there," beams the Recorded Picture Company founder, who first attended in 1971 when he was just 21.

Almost 40 years since he met his Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence director Nagisa Oshima at the festival, Thomas is back on the Croisette alongside another Japanese filmmaker: Takashi Miike, whose Blade Of The Immortal screens out of Competition.

Indeed, he wouldn't be anywhere else, having driven to the festival every year since he first fell in love with it, only missing an edition for the birth of this son or when one of his films has been shooting.

"I went to my first Cannes in a mini, paying my way with borrowed money and credit cards," he recalls. "I saw on that first visit to Cannes that it was to be something very important to me. I wanted to be a part of it."

"When in the mid-70s I attended with a film I had edited we took the reels down in the back of the mini and we spent our time trying to raise money for the next film."

"By then I was beginning to understand Cannes, that it was a place where cinema could breathe."

"What some people still don't understand about the festival is that it is first and foremost a French film festival", he urges, "in the same way that Berlin is a German film festival and Venice is an Italian film festival. Each festival reflects its own national culture and what cinema means to that culture. France has very specific tastes and has very specific qualities and ideas about cinema."

But Thomas, who heralds from British film lineage, knows that as much as it is a celebration of art and aesthetics, Cannes also hosts its fair share of fakery.

"Cutting through the noise is a craft," says the HanWay Films founder with seriousness. "You have to be disciplined. There are many casualties in Cannes; it's a very easy place to party too hard, for example. The best salesmen are down on the Croisette at six in the morning and in bed at 10pm."

Thomas himself has been caught in the Croisette cross hairs. Twice he was at the centre of jury infamy, first when he sat on the fiesty 1987 Competition jury, which contentiously awarded the Palme d'Or to Maurice Pialat's booed Under The Sun Of Satan. …

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