Guests at the legendary Hotel du Cap Eden-Roc, an exclusive resort a half-hour east of Cannes where the stars hide away from the festival’s media blitz during the fortnight, panicked Friday when a group of six men outfitted in militia-themed gear, including khaki vests and black helmets, aggressively approached the hotel by boat at lunchtime.
Publicist J.R. Savet was dining with friends on the du Cap terrace — whose guests included Alice + Olivia designer Stacey Bendet, Vito Schnabel and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter (who is hosting the magazine’s biannual festival party tonight at the property) — when the boat pulled up to the dock and one of the uniformed men stormed the stairs leading up to the iconic property.
“We were all caught off-guard,” Savet told The Hollywood Reporter. “And then someone screamed and people jumped out of their chairs and started moving quickly to the swimming pool area. It was pretty scary.” He added, “The fact that the men appeared to be [dressed like] an ISIS-like militia group was quite shocking.”
The du Cap’s personnel demonstrated a quintessentially French sangfroid, Savet noted. “The hotel staff continued to serve food to guests, but security was called and within several minutes they were on the scene.”
It turns out it was merely a publicity stunt for the Paris-based Oraxy, which describes itself on its website as “the world’s first private global marketplace reserved exclusively for UHNWI,” or Ultra High Net Worth Individuals. (On its way to the du Cap, its small boat closely buzzed large yachts owned by Steven Spielberg, Ronald Perelman and Roman Abramovitch.)
According to France’s National Police, “It was not a terrorist attack. It was a communication effort and publicity for an internet site” — or, as a spokesperson for the du Cap put it to THR, “just a bad joke — a really bad one.” Participants were not arrested, although authorities may take action after an investigation is concluded.
As it happens, Friday was the 13th. It also was the first Friday the 13th in France after last November’s Paris attacks, which claimed the lives of 130 people and also occurred on a Friday the 13th.
A spokesperson for Oraxy, who would not identify the owners of the firm, confirmed it was a publicity stunt, noting that the event was coordinated with maritime authorities: “It was definitely not planned to look like a terrorist attack. The owners [of Oraxy] feel very badly about it. It wasn’t meant to frighten people.”
Still, despite the response to its initial caper, the firm intends to continue with additional plans. “They are hoping to do other actions in Cannes [during the festival], if the weather improves,” the spokesperson added. (By Saturday afternoon thunderstorms had arrived.) “I can say that it will be something more sporty.”
The Oraxy situation developed as Cannes remains on a heightened security alert following an extensive citywide security audit overseen by consultant Israeli Brig. Gen. Nitzan Nuriel, an expert in counter-terrorism hired by the city following the November attacks. The Interior Ministry staged an extensive drill in April (involving 200 extras and fake car bombs) in preparation for the fest.
For its part, the du Cap carried on without incident on Friday night, hosting British filmmaker and brand consultant Charles Finch’s glittery annual dinner at the Eden-Roc with Mick Jagger, Rebecca Hall and Harvey Weinstein, the lead-up to the even more dazzling Vanity Fair event tonight.
Additional reporting by Rhonda Richford and Chris Gardner.
May 14, 8:45 a.m : Updated with comment from Oraxy.