No glitz for the festival pariahs

Observations on Cannes

You might think that the Cannes film festival is all glitz and glam. Let me disabuse you, at least from the perspective of a British journalist - not exactly the most popular type of person on the Croisette, either with the stars or the all-powerful PRs. They much prefer a pliant reporter from Peru or Portugal.

I can already imagine the nightmare of the world première at Cannes of The Da Vinci Code, on 17 May. There will be a press conference, at which Tom Hanks will appear. Merely to get in past the bouncers you will almost certainly have to have a white or, at the very least, pink badge. If you actually want to ask a question you will then have to catch the eye of Henri, the formidable controller of these affairs.

Press conferences are often the only opportunity to question a star. Last year, my badge was wrong for Woody Allen's Match Point, but I'm proud to say I sneaked in under the barrier when a heavy turned his back for a split second. Allen was not overjoyed with my question about the script.

A few years earlier I went to nearby Cap Ferrat hoping for a one-off interview with Quentin Tarantino about his Pulp Fiction. Pathetically, I stood at his hotel entrance and handed my note to the concierge. I waited and waited and waited, to no avail.

Cannes, of course, has its parties, though most disappoint. I managed - it must have been a mistake - to get invited to a Bruce Willis bash. But he had not been overjoyed by the reception of his movie that day. I arrived at a restaurant high above the Cannes hills to be told: "Mr Willis has now decided not to let in the press."

In fact, I had a nicer meal with a friend in the village without suffering the ignominy of being a pariah - even when we get in, journalists are rarely allowed within 50 feet of the star.

Mind you, some celebrities are quite nice on their own. Three years ago Stephen Fry thanked me for asking reasonably intelligent questions about his Bright Young Things. It made a change, he said, from the inane questions from Johnny Foreigner. And last year I got a full hour with Charlotte Rampling, whose Lemming was at Cannes. I managed initially to sit in on one of the 15-minute round-table talks with reporters of all nationalities. When it was over I simply stayed and joined another group. When that quarter of an hour was up, Rampling asked why I was hanging around. I played my trump card: we had been born on the same day of the same year. Greeting me as her "twin", she gave me my own 60 minutes.