You could tell Lionsgate was going to throw some money at its Capitol-themed party for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at Cannes from the invitation alone. It came in an inch-thick satin-lined white paperboard box with the Capitol seal embossed on the front. Inside was a silver pin in the shape of a rose and a gold-lettered request for the pleasure of your company from “President Snow.” Fail to affix the pin to your lapel, or bring the invitation, which was marked with a stamp only visible in black light, and it was off to the Arena for you! Or they’d just turn you away, and at Cannes, not getting into one of the night’s hottest party might be the worse fate.
At least that’s how the door was supposed to be run, were it not for yet another of the torrential downpours that have become the norm at this year’s festival — drenching Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman earlier this week, and ruining many a fine dress shoe. Instead of wearing rose pins and waving black-light-coded invitations, people at the entrance to the venue, Baoli Beach, simply waved umbrellas and claimed being important, as usual.
Down below, in a vast tent whose insides were draped with red fabric, Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Sam Claflin (Finnick), and, randomly, Paul Haggis sat on couches surrounded by security guards, followed by a wall of people holding out their iPhones.
The rain has been a literal dampener of Cannes’s usually delightful excess this entire week. A friend told us he’d gone to another of these beach parties the previous night and watched a crew of fire dancers spend an hour in the bathroom getting ready, then walk outside to do their routine one minute before another deluge began. (I think the easy lesson to take from this is, if you’re a fire dancer, get ready at home. Come on, people, professionalism.) Similarly, the Catching Fire party, whose cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars was mostly shouldered by sponsor CoverGirl and foreign film distributors, was meant to have a super secret special effect happening oceanside, one that required special effects crews to be flown in from the States — rumors were a barge with fireworks and a wall of water onto which images would be projected (really it was going to be a projection of water onto a screen) — that simply had to be scrapped. The Capitol seal was still raised high at the end of a pier that was supposed to have been filled with champagne-swilling revelers, but like Gatsby’s green light, it was barely visible through the deluge, and seemed so very far away.
Still, the spectacle that Lionsgate and event producer Danielle Pelland did manage to pull off was sufficient for a pretty great time. Hanging from the tent’s ceiling were crystal chandeliers along with giant dripping Baroque arrangements of white peonies topped with candles. More peonies topped large Roman columns, topped by more candles. The center of the room was dominated by an endless food table piled high with desserts (10,000 pieces of food for the event total) and book-ended by two three-tiered chocolate fondue fountains, one white and one dark. Behind the bars on either end of the vast tent were framed Baroque-style portraits of the Hunger Games characters in their Capitol finest. Male waiters and bartenders were marked with fake face tattoos resembling either tiger stripes or Mike Tyson’s. Mixed drinks that Les Misérables’s Samantha Banks called “very fierce, very colorful, very extreme” were standard in flavor (gin fizz, tequila sunrise), but concocted in unnaturally bright greens and blues. “You mean that Gatorade-blue drink? It was terrible!” said Hemlock Grove’s Bill Skarsgård. Was he a Hunger Games fan? “I actually tried out for what’s-his-name”— Gale, he said, laughing. “I didn’t get it.”
The best touch, though, were the lavishly costumed models, mostly from Cannes and Monaco, swanning amidst the likes of Les Moonves and Julie Chen, Ellen von Unwerth, Colin Egglesfield, and Rick Yune (The Fast and the Furious). They’d been outfitted in futuristic dresses with towering, often brightly colored fake hair and feathered hats so large one model with a smaller headpiece had to part the crowd so her friend could get through without poking someone’s eye out. The costumes had been conceived by Erin Hirsh, the costume designer for The Voice, who’d flown in from Los Angeles with seven giant duffel bags and a letter of intent from Lionsgate to avoid getting hassled by customs. One of Hirsh’s shoppers, Hachy Mendez, tells me that Lionsgate gave them a “very time-sensitive” link (it expired after an hour) to images all watermarked with Hirsh’s name that they could draw inspiration from but not copy exactly. “It was very Illuminati-exclusive.” The look they went for, says Mendez, was “church lady avant-garde,” while Vulture Kyle describes the two male models, dressed in caps and shrunken jackets with S&M face gear, as looking like “Adam Lambert in a steam punk conductor’s outfit.” (In an informal survey of the models, only a few had seen the movie and none had read the books, but they all like “the future.”)
The rain stopped, of course, just as the night was winding down. J-Law and Liam were long gone, having absconded to a legendary, permanent site of rain-proof Cannes decadence, the Hotel du Cap, 30 minutes away in Antibes. C’est la vie: More white chocolate fondue for the rest of us.