Cannes: HFPA Donates $500,000 to Help Refugees With Aid From Helen Mirren, Robert Pattinson

Helen Mirren in Cannes - H Getty 2019
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The Nikki Beach pop-up in Cannes has been a beachfront staple of the film festival for something like 17 years, and on nights like Sunday night at 10 p.m., it’s always packed to the brim with champagne-clutching revelers, electric music and a fist-pumping DJ.

But when Dame Helen Mirren took the microphone during the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s charity event to benefit Help Refugees, she also took control of the room and managed to keep hundreds of guests quiet for an important announcement. “This is the biggest honor,” she said in opening her brief remarks. 

“OK, ladies and gentlemen, madames, monsieurs — especially you guys talking in the back,” said the three-time Golden Globe winner after being welcomed to the stage by HFPA president Meher Tatna (who delivered a brief introduction in French that she had perfected specifically for the occasion) with a compliment as the “queen of all our hearts.” “Here you are, you’ve got free food, you’ve got free drink, you’re safe, you’re warm, the rain is not raining on your heads. All I ask you is to give a moment’s thought to the people who don’t have that. Just a moment of not speaking. Think about people who are so much worse off than you are and feel very, very, very grateful that you are where you are.”

The where was a room filled with boldface names including Quentin Tarantino, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Andie MacDowell, Gayle Rankin, Yolanda Ross, Eva Longoria and the cast of Cannes selection Port Authority, among many other international stars. Mirren then paused to pay tribute to the humanitarian organization Help Refugees.

“This is an amazing organization whose mission providing humanitarian aid with minimal overheard and maximum impact has affected the lives of so many and how lucky are we that we don’t need that help,” she said. “These are people who aren’t unafraid of rolling their sleeves up in the cold and the wet and getting their hands dirty. Since 2015, they have responded to urgent needs and where large NGOs can’t or won’t go. They have supported more than 80 different projects many among migration routes helping nearly 1 million people escape war, violence persecution with low overheard of only 7 percent, which is incredible in a charity where others can reach 40 percent.”

Then came the big reveal: Mirren, along with Tatna and actor Robert Pattinson, presented an oversized check for $500,000 to Help Refugees. Joining them on stage was Josie Naughton, co-founder and CEO of Help Refugees, to accept the check and Participant Media CEO David Linde. Participant was a partner in the charity event and hosted the dinner before it. 

“This donation is literally going to save lives,” Mirren highlighted.

How they’re going to do that is by using the funds to support children’s hospitals; search and rescue operations; “basics like food, tents, shelter”; education, inclusion and empowerment programs; legal support; and safe spaces for women. “This is real, real life saving and changing stuff,” Naughton added. “Every single one of us has the power to make a difference to change the world.”

With that, the party changed course — back to a typical Nikki Beach Cannes-glam soiree on the sand. But the HFPA and party organizers upped the ante a bit by inviting the vibrant cast of Port Authority to the stage for a surprise ballroom-style vogue session that had dozens of revelers clutching their phones to record the action. A true party with a purpose...and a saxophonist performing on the bar, because this is Cannes.