Monte Carlo Festival Ramps Up Star Power, Shakes Up Competition

Courtesy of Olaf Protze/LightRocket via Getty Images
The Monaco fest gives American stars a chance to connect with their European fans.

Stars are expected to flock to the seaside enclave for its 56th annual celebration of the small screen, running June 12-16 at Grimaldi Forum.

Monaco is the stuff of movie magic. After all, Grace Kelly became Princess Grace when she married Prince Rainier III in the perfect Hollywood romance. But while the principality might have a film pedigree (such classics as 1955's To Catch a Thief and 1995's GoldenEye were set there), it also has played a central role in promoting the best in international television since before the small screen became such serious business.

In its 56th year, the Monte Carlo Television Festival is one of the world's oldest events that honors series and their stars. This time the occasion is slimming down, glamming up and getting tech-savvy for the current so-called golden age of television.

Jane Seymour will take the stage as the first celebrity emcee of the closing ceremony, bringing in a Hollywood name to host the Golden Nymph Awards, and the festival is launching the digital-leaning ConTech Academy, a forum for industry professionals, content creators and young innovators.

New CEO Laurent Puons also is shaking up this year's competition. He has done away with a bloated jury system to invite big-name panelists (Danny Glover will head the nonfiction categories, and Jason Priestley will preside over fiction), and the competition is open only to freshman shows to end the stagnation that arose when the same popular series could be nominated year after year.

"It will bring in new and very high-level talent," says Puons of the strategy, which also yields fewer participants in each category.

The result is a diverse dance card of acting nominees, from Oscar winners Mark Rylance for Wolf Hall and Marcia Gay Harden for Code Black to Lucy Lawless for the horror comedy Ash vs. Evil Dead. AMC's Better Call Saul and Amazon's commitment comedy Catastrophe and sci-fi drama The Man in the High Castle are in the series category mix, and PBS' provocative Poldark and SundanceTV's smart spy thriller Deutschland 83 are among the first-season hits nominated. "It's really about quality over quantity," says Puons.

European media leap at the access provided by the festival, with 200-plus outlets expected to cover the event. Plus, the fest always has been consumer-facing, allowing American stars to connect with their European followers.

"One of things I love about this festival is the fans because I've actually developed friendships with some of them that live here and stay in touch over Twitter," says Nashville star Eric Close of the notoriously enthusiastic crowds.

It's not only stars who come for the sun, sea, selfies and screams, but also creators and executives flock to the Grimaldi Forum. Endemol Shine Australia CEO Mark Fennessy will mingle among this year's guests, and Rola Bauer, CEO of French production giant StudioCanal's Tandem (who oversees the company's U.S. productions and co-productions), is a member of the fiction jury.

There also is a fresh focus on innovation and technology, a nod to the growing glut of content generated by streaming services and YouTube. The PGA will lead a discussion on how creators can stay competitive, and Chicago Fire creator Dick Wolf and executive producer Peter Jankowski, Disney-ABC Television Group vp digital media Chris Thomes and Carnival Films CEO Gareth Neame — the man behind Downton Abbey — will join the ConTech Academy lineup.

Not everyone will walk away a winner from the event, but they might be treated as such: The festival's honorary chairman, Prince Albert II, will give nominees the royal treatment during a fancy fete at the hilltop palace he shares with wife Princess Charlene.

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Where to Party and Play in This Fairy-Tale Mediterranean Hotspot
The Cote d’Azur is awash in glamour, with Cannes only an hour’s drive away and Nice a quick six minutes by helicopter. But Monaco is its own world as a permanent place on the map for the international jet set to live it up.

Letter to a Man
Casino de Monte-Carlo
(+377 90 06 28 00)

Mikhail Baryshnikov performs a new work based on the diaries of Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, whose raw writings were praised by Henry Miller, from June 30 to July 3 in the Casino's Opera Garnier concert hall.

Hotel Hermitage
Square Beaumarchais
(+377 98 06 40 00)

This hotel is a perfect example of Monaco's unparalleled glitz and glamour. Be sure to check out the Belle Epoque structure's stained-glass and steel dome — it was designed by Gustave Eiffel (as in the iconic Paris tower).

Blue Gin
40 Avenue Princesse Grace
(+377 98 06 06 77)

Monaco's version of a sports bar. Sure, you can watch games on the big screen, but it's perched on a seaside cliff over the Mediterranean. Prepare to savor and sip slowly: Blue Gin's signature kiwi-flavored mojito costs a cool $20.

This story first appeared in the June 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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