Cannes: Inside the Hopeful Fiction of the Castings of Lady Gaga, Idris Elba

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Idris Elba, Lady Gaga

Insiders say more and more high-profile projects are being announced when the actors aren't really attached.

Iconic singer Dionne Warwick held a press conference Friday in Cannes to announce that Destiny’s Child singer LeToya Luckett would play her in the biopic Dionne, with Lady Gaga taking on the role of her musical nemesis Cilla Black.

That A-list cast didn’t last long. Gaga’s reps quickly denied her involvement: "Lady Gaga is not attached and will not appear in this project," said the statement.

This led to a back-and-forth, with Warwick telling The Hollywood Reporter that Gaga’s music reps approved the deal and Gaga’s reps continuing to say she is not attached. In the end, it seems that Warwick did not reach out to any of Gaga's official reps, and may have mistakenly thought she had, sources say.

Gagagate is just the latest high-profile case of what could be described at the "faux attachment." At every film market, major projects are announced with impressive casts. But soon after, it's revealed that the actor is not attached, and sometimes has not even heard of the project. The phenomenon of projects falling apart hours after being born appears to have increased in recent years, due in part to the scramble of producers and sales companies to get packages with big talent together in time to launch at Cannes.

"There has definitely been an increase in the last-minute frenzy before the market, where things are not coming together in time," says Paul Hanson, CEO of Covert Media, which is selling Ophelia, starring Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts, at the market.

Indeed, while buyers say they usually get scripts for a project ahead of the Cannes festival, several distributors have complained that it isn’t until they arrive in France when dozens of scripts are sent to their in-boxes.

"This year we saw 40 new scripts come in three days before Cannes, and sellers just hammer in names to have something to show," says Rudiger Boss, a buyer with German broadcaster group ProSiebenSat.1. "That’s why we always have 'essential elements' written into our contracts, with the director and one or two lead actors guaranteed. If they drop out, we can give the film back, without penalty."

That happened with Bad Moms, one of the hottest sellers at the 2015 Cannes film market. Paramount took on the comedy, initially set to star Leslie Mann, for the U.S. but pulled out, along with most international buyers, after she dropped the project, eventually to be replaced by Mila Kunis, Christina Applegate and Kristen Bell.

Another prominent actor detachment at Cannes this year came courtesy of Idris Elba. Production company SixtyFourSixty originally had the British actor as one of the stars of upcoming drama The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, which GFM Films is selling in Cannes. But after the news broke, Elba’s reps said he would not be doing the film.

“He wanted to do it, he loved it,” says Michael Ryan, a partner at GFM. “But he’s recently gotten some very high-profile stuff with some very high-profile money, and so it was hard to find time to do it.”

Says Dirk Schweizer, a buyer for European distributor Splendid Film: "It’s becoming harder and harder to get big names to stick to indie projects, because they can get so much more money going with studio projects. It makes it a lot easier for [the studios] to lock up the top stars."

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