Inaugural Champs Elysees Film Festival Kicks Off in Paris

Harvey Weinstein Headshot Cannes - P 2012
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Harvey Weinstein Headshot Cannes - P 2012

Harvey Weinstein was honored with a career tribute as the red carpet sparkled with the prolific producer’s French friends.

PARIS -- The first annual Champs Elysees Film Festival rolled out its red carpet on France’s famous avenue Wednesday as producer of honor Harvey Weinstein joined his French “amis” including The Artist producer Thomas Langmann, the Cannes Film Festival’s Thierry Fremaux and fest president Michael Madsen to kick off the week-long event.

Cesar Academy president Alain Terzian, actresses Virginie Ledoyen, Melissa George and Beatrice Rosen and French film industry execs including Metropolitan’s Samuel Hadida, producer Alain Attal and The Chorus director Christophe Barratier came out to support Weinstein who was honored with a career homage before a screening of Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires.

“Franglais” was the spoken tongue at the event that is positioning itself as a bridge between US independent cinema and French audiences and film industry professionals.

The public and professional event is run by Sophie Dulac, who is not only a major producer, distributor and exhibitor in Gaul, but is also the reason for Weinstein’s visit.

“I'm here to support Sophie. Her brother Nicolas Rachline has been my best friend for 20 years and is the godfather of my daughter so that's the reason I'm here. I'm here for the family,” Weinstein told The Hollywood Reporter. The producer’s affinity for French cinema also played a role in his participation in the brand new festival.

“I love French movies, I love France and I love the Champs Elysees so its a good combination for me,” he said.

In addition to this year’s awards season favorite The Artist and recent release The Intouchables, Weinstein has distributed several French titles throughout his long career including Amelie and Delicatessen and plans to continue his love affair with the country in the future.

“We’ll be doing more French movies. This is just the beginning,” Weinstein said, adding that The Weinstein Co. will distribute the titles, but is also getting more involved in the production side as well: “Sometimes we finance them from an early stage to help the movies get made.”

The Weinstein Co. is currently promoting The Intouchables stateside and Weinstein is pushing for the film’s star Omar Sy to be the next big import from France. But will Sy’s language skills be up for the task? “Like Jean Dujardin, it will get better,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein arrived early and was greeted by a whirlwind of photographers and press eager to talk to the producer who is now a national celebrity in France after The Artist’s success. However, Weinstein responded to the commotion with modesty. “I don't think I'm France’s national hero. I’ll leave that to people who are much more deserving,” he said. The ubiquitous producer was all smiles as he worked the room and calling the evening “a fun night to see a lot of friends.”

So why does Weinstein think French films like The Artist and The Intouchables have been so successful stateside recently?

“The piracy has a lot to do with it. The tough laws that France enacted to protect artists and moviemakers is giving birth to an industry,” he said, but added that he hopes that will change:   “In America, we kind of rolled over to Silicon Valley. After the presidential election, I’m hoping Senator Dodd can get a bunch of people in a room together from Silicon Valley and from our industry.”

While Weinstein evoked politics, Madsen, who will co-preside over the festival with French actor Lambert Wilson, brought his sense of humor. “I’m unemployed so perhaps I’ll meet a director or someone who needs my services here,” he said.

Madsen will head to Vienna in September to play a priest in Joshua Sinclair’s Edith about Holocaust victim Edith Stein.

Madsen is no stranger to French cinema. The actor shot Olivier Assayas’ 2007 title Boarding Gate in France. “That was just such a great experience. Shooting in the streets of Paris for an American in Paris is a nice thing,” he recalled, adding that he’s enjoying his trip to the City of Lights this time around as well. “It’s a pretty amazing thing as an American to step out on your balcony and see the Eiffel Tower,” he said.

Madsen’s affinity for France made his decision to accept the position as festival president a no-brainer.

“How am I going to say no to Paris?” he said, adding: “I don’t normally get asked to do this type of thing.”

George was in town with her French beau and also to support Weinstein with whom the actress has made three films. George stars in TV series Hunted that will launch on Cinemax later this year. “My fingers are crossed,” she said of her new project that will also air on BBC One.

Donald Sutherland will be in Paris over the weekend for an homage to his career, screening of 1971 film Klute and “Hollywood conversation” with a public audience. The legendary actor will also be named Commander of Arts and Letters by France’s cultural minister.

The Champs-Elysees Film Festival runs June 6-12 in Paris.