Rihanna Refuses to Sing at Cannes

Performance duties at a glitzy bash went to Bruno Mars, while the singer toplined the invite but not the stage.
ISTOCK; Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock; Kevin Kane/FilmMagic

Just hours after her Cannes red carpet debut — in white Christian Dior Couture at the Okja premiere — Rihanna found herself in another universe as co-host of Chopard's super-galactic space party at Port Pierre Canto with fellow co-hosts Cathy Guetta and Chopard co-president Caroline Scheufele. RiRi toplined the invite but not the stage.

Performance duties went to Bruno Mars, and a high-ranking jewelry source tells The Hollywood Reporter that it was a strategic move by the songstress to let Mars have the spotlight at the May 20 bash. Rihanna is said to have declined the opportunity to perform at her party because she wanted to position herself more as an actress in front of the international film community in Cannes. (Though she doesn’t have a film in the lineup she has two major ones on the upcoming release calendar with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and Ocean's 8.)

Somebody must've told the DJ at the party as he only played one Rihanna song in three hours — her No. 1 hit "Work." (Coincidence?) Meanwhile at her other Cannes party, the night before on the Chopard Rooftop at the Grand Hyatt Hotel Martinez, she looked every bit the film industry insider rushing over to say hello to newly installed Netflix film head Scott Stuber, who showed up to the party with his boss Ted Sarandos.

Rihanna gave Stuber a huge hug and the executive-turned-producer-turned executive introduced his pal (the two worked together on her feature film debut Battleship, which Stuber produced) to Sarandos, who gushed about what a huge fan he is. The three then posed for a picture, which was taken by Rihanna’s longtime manager, Jay Brown.

“It all comes full circle,” Stuber told RiRi, hinting that more films may be in her future. And they are: Rihanna looks set to be co-starring with Lupita Nyong'o for a Netflix project to be directed by Ava DuVernay and written by Issa Rae based on a viral tweet. 

As for Mars, he headlined the night solo in what proved to be a head-scratching performance.

He kicked off with "24K Magic" on center stage, and the crowd went wild, including Rihanna, who was busting a move. But after that song, Mars retreated to the DJ booth, standing next to the DJ behind a circular partition for the rest of his set. For several songs even, he was mostly blocked from view by a bevy of costumed dancers. Adding to the confusion: It sounded as if he was lip-syncing several of his hit songs. 

Will Smith didn't seem to mind. The juror arrived after midnight and stayed until almost 2 a.m., bobbing his head to all the jams (especially Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You"), including his own "Getting Jiggy With It." Smith, who is taking his jury duties seriously despite the late night, wasn't drinking and looked to be having a blast in the VIP section where he greeted other notable guests including the A-list hostess and model Winnie Harlow. Elsewhere in the room holding court at the starry and celebratory party were supermodels Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid.  

Additional reporting by Rhonda Richford.

A version of this story first appeared in the May 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.