For actresses, there are wardrobe challenges -- then there are gargantuan wardrobe challenges. Being a juror at the Cannes Film Festival falls into the latter category. The men have it easy: Ewan McGregor, Alexander Payne and Italian director Nanni Moretti -- all on this year's jury -- need only a tux or two to make it through 12 nights of the fest. The ultimate challenge falls on the panel's glamorous actresses because there are nearly as many major fashion photo ops during Cannes as there are during all of Hollywood's awards season -- and the famed ascent of the stairs at the Palais des Festivals means a dress will be seen and photographed from every angle. "The rules for a juror are two movies a day, opening night, two red carpets and closing night -- and then there's the amfAR ball," says stylist Anna Bingemann, who helped procure an extensive wardrobe for 2011's most stylish juror, Uma Thurman, her longtime client.
This year, the jury torch passes to Diane Kruger, who stars in two new films opening later this year, Farewell, My Queen (a French film that debuted in Berlin) and Fly Me to the Moon (also French), as well as 2013's The Host, from writer-director Andrew Niccol. Kruger's an undeniable fashionista who doesn't use a stylist -- so she has her work cut out for her. She does, though, have longtime relationships with designers like Derek Lam and Jason Wu.
Even if female jurors weren't dressing that many days in a row, the stakes are major. Whereas the Oscars are stately, on the Croisette, la plus glamour, the better. "You can wear serious couture at Cannes and not be fearful of landing on the worst-dressed list if it's risque," says Bingemann. "People in Europe just don't do that."
Indeed, the dressing standards have been set high by attendees like Charlize Theron, Marion Cotillard and Natalie Portman. And they only had to plan one major look for their visits.
THR got some tips from Bingemann on how she pulled off Thurman's multi-event couture coup, and Kruger would be wise to take note. "First off," says the stylist, "we started with the most important look, opening night. Closing night is next priority, then amfAR. Then two outfits a day, some cocktail or day-length."
Thurman was in New Orleans shooting a film, so there were no fittings until the night before she left for Cannes. In the end, the actress asked Bingemann to go with her. "Stylists don't tend to fly with clients, but she couldn't have done this all on her own," says Bingemann. "It's much more difficult than anyone imagines."
There is help, though: When it comes to much-photographed A-list actresses, there's little designers won't do, from sending sketches and tailors to rush-shipping delicate gowns.
To make sure her client stood out on opening night, Bingemann went with Versace couture. "The dresses really fit, even this one [above left] that's strapless and white," she says. "However, these dresses are made for 12-year-old girls on the catwalk. Luigi from Versace met us in Cannes at the Carlton hotel where we stayed, tried it on her, then drove back to Milan to rework it." Versace also made a backup dress. Suggests Bingemann, "You always have one backup."
Chanel couture provided two of Thurman's looks: a silver gown with a rosette neckline for the amfAR ball at the Hotel du Cap and a white slinky gown for the premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. "The Chanel team had four couture dresses for us. I chose two, then we shipped them and did fittings in Cannes," says Bingemann. "These dresses are so detailed that they need to be packed in boxes with plastic and foam, so Chanel shipped them."
For closing night, the Giorgio Armani team came to them with sketches. Bingemann chose an unfussy long-sleeved cobalt gown, and the Armani team traveled from Milan to work on it.
In between were a black Calvin Klein gown, a few Dolce & Gabbana day dresses and a purple long-sleeved Roland Mouret V-neck gown. Thurman's lanky, statuesque build was made for a slinky silhouette that isn't too encumbered.
All of her jewelry, including the emerald Chopard earrings Thurman donned opening night, was procured in Cannes, where jewelers have suites at Hotel Martinez and have guards shadow celebrities until goods are returned.
"We had three suitcases, and that's with the biggest dresses being shipped over," says Bingemann. "I flew my assistant over to do returns -- you don't want anything lost. The designers do pickups from the Carlton and the Martinez. I don't know how actresses do it without someone with them. I don't recommend that."
As for Kruger, we hear she's busy poring over Polaroids, making selects. Her pal Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel all-blue spring 2012 couture collection sure would look great on her against the blue Cote d'Azur sky. Whereas Thurman went streamlined, the European Kruger is sure to go with more fabric, more color and just more.
Where the Action is Major Fashion
You could also call Cannes a festival du fashion these days. Major European brands take up residence in showrooms inside luxury hotels on the Croisette (mostly Hotel Martinez) to have diamonds, couture gowns and even cosmetics ready for their most favored clients.
Gucci has perhaps the biggest presence. A team complete with Milan couturiers sets up shop at the Martinez, including creative director Frida Giannini. In 2010, the company introduced its couture line, Gucci Premiere, with Salma Hayek wearing it to the Cannes premiere of Robin Hood. Gucci also has worked with Martin scorsese's The Film Foundation since 2006. This year, the foundation's restored film will be Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, with a premiere May 18. Robert De Niro, Elizabeth McGovern and Jennifer Connelly will attend, as will Leone's daughter Raffaella.
Armani's Hollywood ambassadors, Wanda McDaniel and Barry Frediani, travel to Cannes to coordinate celebrity dressing for ready-to-wear and its couture arm, Armani Prive. They also throw a major event every year -- this year's is Carnival at Cannes, a May 18 gala benefiting Sean Penn's Haiti effort.
Chopard, with its lounge on the top floor of the Martinez, is celebrating its 15th anniversary as official sponsor of the festival, and the French jeweler will hold a proliferation of parties including its Mystery soiree May 21.
Indeed, the Martinez has morphed into the fashion hotel, with showrooms planned for Bulgari, Cartier, Piaget, Dior Homme, Dior Beaute, Elie Saab, Swarovski, Chanel, Armani, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Montblanc, Jimmy Choo, Giuseppe Zanotti, Emilio Pucci and Roberto Cavalli.
L'Oreal always has a huge Cannes presence at the Martinez: It's bringing a coterie of international brand representatives including Eva Longoria, Freida Pinto and Julianna Margulies and will hold events such as a May 19 private concert featuring Death in Vegas and Mary Magdalan. Worldwide fashion mega-PR rep Karla Otto also will turn up again, and her company is behind a Calvin Klein event celebrating indie film May 17, a Replay store opening May 22 and the amfAR ball
May 24. For those who don't have entrance to the showrooms, there's news on the shopping front: French streetwear designer Vanessa Bruno will open a well-timed boutique during the fest, and Valentino Red (Valentino will have a showroom at the Martinez) is opening a store May 18.