How far Cannes she go?


Last updated at 11:51 20 May 2004

'Hello darling, do you want to be famous? I can get you into the movies,' leers the dark-haired man in sunglasses from the next table of a pavement cafe in Cannes.

'Come to my villa and pose for some lingerie photographs. I know many casting agents.'

I have been in France for barely two hours with the aim of landing my first movie role, and this is not quite the glamorous introduction I was hoping for.

No doubt I am just one of several girls that Yavuz Guentuerk, who supposedly manages a modelling and acting agency in Germany, has targeted today.

He proves that by producing a small digital camera from his suit pocket and talking me through four different images of young women he has encountered this afternoon who are desperate to get on his books.

'If I see a woman I like walk past me on the street, I ask to take her photo. Then later, we arrange to meet to do some proper underwear shots by the pool or at the beach for my website,' he says.

'It doesn't matter if you don't have model looks, or feel shy. I'm a professional and know a lot of people looking for girls just like you for movie roles.'

Anything is possible in Cannes

Anywhere else, Yavuz's spiel would sound ludicrous but this is film festival time in Cannes - the most important ten days of the movie industry calendar - and the most overheard saying in every bar is 'Anything is possible'.

There is also no shortage of young hopefuls who want to believe the empty promises of men like this.

Along with the A-list stars such as Brad Pitt and Kevin Bacon - here to promote their latest movies - the town is awash with the equally ambitious Cannes Cling- ons - beautifully groomed twenty- something women who arrive by the planeload from all over Europe, clutching Chanel sunglasses and Louis Vuitton luggage.

By day they can be found parading down the famous Croisette; by night they party with the glitterati till dawn in bottom-skimming miniskirts.

They dream of being accidentally 'discovered' and plucked from obscurity for a movie role that will catapult them to stardom.

Ultimate challenge was to win a film role

My task is to infiltrate this star-struck set for five days as they network their way through bars, restaurants and parties. My ultimate challenge: to win a film role for myself.

Undeterred by my first seedy experience of the film industry, I spend the following afternoon at the Hotel de Cap - a five-star luxury hotel just outside the town.

A traditional favourite with the Cannes A-list each year, the 'De Cap', as it is affectionately known, is highly exclusive, and non-residents have to pay a £70-aday fee and be approved by the management to hang out at the pool for a couple of hours.

I lie and tell the doorman I have arranged a lunchtime meeting at the poolside restaurant with a director friend who is a resident, and am waved through.

Once inside, a relaxed Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz can be seen cavorting by the pool holding hands and giggling like teenagers while Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes, dressed elegantly in a white linen suit, is enjoying cocktails with two stunning blonde models in designer bikinis.

Hollywood heavyweight director Harvey Weinstein is sitting at the outdoor bar - red-faced with a mobile glued to his ear - sipping water.

As two women leave the pool and walk past him, he cranes his neck unashamedly to look at them from behind and smiles to an assistant.

The guests at the various tables in the restaurant read like a Who's Who of the film industry. Top producers, directors and actors sit, chatting idly and drinking chilled rosé.

Dozens of slim bronzed women in bikinis

They are accompanied by dozens of slim, bronzed girls in high heels and bikinis, making me feel rather overdressed in my white trousers and shirt.

Seeing I am alone, a friendly man in his 50s takes pity on me and sits down at my table. He appears to know many of the famous guests and when he introduces himself, I understand why.

He is Hollywood producer Donald Kushner, who has worked with many big stars including Elizabeth Hurley and Heather Graham.

One of his most recent films was Monster, which won Charlize Theron an Oscar.

After our introductions, he starts chatting about how pretty Charlize is without her make-up and how she enjoys her food on set (which he assures me is a rarity among female Hollywood stars).

'He starts chatting me up'

Then, pointing at the many women in bikinis, he confides: 'The casting couch is still very much alive and well. They're not residents here, that's for sure. They spend the whole day chatting to all the big directors and leave in the evening. My guess would be that they're trying to break into the industry.'

When I tell Donald I want to break into acting myself, he bluntly offers me his expert advice. 'I don't go in for the casting couch method myself, I'm afraid, but you've got a nice face and I'm searching for a couple of extras right now.

'I can call the director. I'll e-mail him, too, and say that I've met a great girl who is ideal for one of the roles. You'd have to fly out to meet him in June.

'You need to hurry up if you want to make it in movies. If you're a woman, you should have made it by the time you hit your mid 20s - it sounds ruthless but that's just the way it is. Women are only considered for the sexy leads until they get to 30 and then they're finished,' he says coldly.

The audition is for a small role in a new action movie starring Wesley Snipes which is shooting in Budapest in June. It sounds promising and a lot less sleazy than the first offer I received, so I take his card. But as I've only got five days to get a role, it is too long to wait.

The next day, I discovered for myself the pressure for girls to succumb to the casting couch method.

Within minutes of arriving at the glamorous Chopard diamonds party, attended by Elizabeth Hurley and her boyfriend Arun Nayar, I am approached by a heavily tanned man in his 60s who has spotted me from the VIP area.

'Hi, I'm Bruno. I saw you from across the room and had to come over to talk to you,' he smiles, handing me a glass of champagne. 'You must be an actress and if you are not, you should be.'

Bruno goes on to explain that he is a Hollywood producer with a huge boat in the harbour. 'I think you should join me later on board for a drink as I'm all alone tonight.'

He is visibly surprised when I decline his invitation, though the disappointment doesn't last long because there are sure to be other girls willing to take up his offer.

They say Cannes at festival time is the city of dreams, and there is no shortage of girls who arrive with the most romantic dream of all - landing that film role that will change their lives for ever.

One such starlet is Jordana Bell, 24, a budding actress and model with stunning doe eyes, whom I meet the following night.

From London, she is spending a week with three of her friends in a villa on the outskirts of town. The other girls are wearing lowcut little black dresses but Jordana is in bright yellow chiffon and strappy heels, so she's impossible to miss.

She is just as open about her ambitions: 'People have told me that I look like Charlize Theron and my dream is to break into the movie industry,' she says. 'I've modelled and acted in commercials since I was a child and dance in pop videos for bands like Moloko.

'I love what I do, but if I'm being honest I'd love to meet an agent who could help me with my career while I'm here.

'I recently travelled to LA to try to kick-start a career by meeting with producers and directors, but I haven't secured anything yet.' Jordana is not the only one hopeful of a break.

At another private party hosted by American singer Alicia Keys on a yacht in the harbour, I meet a leggy 26-year-old air hostess called Lucy, from Cheshire, who is here with a friend for a long weekend.

'It's every girl's dream to get a part in a movie,' she gushes, sipping from a miniature bottle of champagne through a straw.

'And there are so many hot directors and actors here during Cannes that you never know who you're going to end up with at a party. I saw Brad Pitt leaving the Majestic hotel today.'

'I start chatting to Kevin Bacon'

The big hotels are the best place to go star spotting. That very afternoon I get chatting to Kevin Bacon in the rooftop bar of the Noga Hilton. He told me he was there to promote a new film but was enjoying an afternoon off, relaxing by the pool.

The following night, I meet Lucy again - this time at the MTV party, held in a huge holiday villa once owned by Elizabeth Taylor in the foothills of the Cote d'Azur.

Lucy is with a friend, Hayley, from London and the pair are dirty dancing together on the stage, cheered on by a small circle of men. Hayley admits this is her third year at Cannes and as she knows several of the party organisers and PRs, she has no problem getting on the guest list for the top parties.

'Tomorrow we've got tickets to the Kill Bill party and Quentin Tarantino is actually going to be there, plus loads of other celebrities - we're spending the entire day at a spa in town getting pampered,' she gushes. 'And I'm not eating a thing as I've got to get into a skin-tight white dress.'

The following night, it seems their effort has paid off. I watch in amazement as they nudge themselves to the front of a gaggle of eager girls dancing near the VIP area. Behind the cordon are Dennis Quaid and Mick Jagger.

Suddenly, Quaid catches their eye and points them out to the security guards. Minutes later, they are plucked from the throng and invited past the security guards to have a drink and dance with Mick and Dennis. Their mission is complete.

I get my own break an hour later at the same party.

Realising from the girls I've met that less is definitely more in this game, I'm wearing a figure-hugging, backless, beaded gown by Eavis & Brown - and it works.

'What an amazing dress,' says a voice behind me as I approach the bar. I turn to face a man who introduces himself simply as Craig, a producer from Box Office Films.

'He asks if I'm an actress'

He asks me if I'm an actress and I nod, adding casually that I've done 'a few bits and pieces'. He hands me a card and asks me to give him a call. I am thrilled.

The following afternoon when I call, he invites me on board the Box Office Films' yacht - a sleek white Benetti worth £7 million - for a glass of champagne with two film executives and two of the stars for an informal chat.

When I arrive, I discover the film is an action thriller called Run - Ride Or Die starring Rick Yune, one of the baddies in the last Bond film.

Craig hands me a script and says he would like to consider me for one of two roles, both of which involve some interaction with the leading men.

The film is about street racing, so the first is the hot pants-clad girl who lowers the flag at the start of the race. The other is the cocktail waitress who always serves them at their favourite bar.

I admit sheepishly that I haven't done very much acting at all. 'Not a problem,' says Craig. 'If you fancy being the cocktail waitress, all you have to do is serve drinks off a silver tray, chat away to the other actors and you must be able to walk in high heels and look glamorous.'

I am then asked to join Rick Yune and the production team for lunch at a local restaurant. They tell me that Simon Webbe from the boy band Blue has also signed up and is due to make his screen debut.

When it comes to ordering lunch, they are very surprised when I order a plate of fish with potatoes and vegetables. 'It's so fantastic to meet a woman who eats,' whispers one of the producers who lives in LA.

The next day, when I arrive at the villa where the audition is being held, I am met by two girls in bikinis at the side of the pool.

A third - a leggy brunette with bright green eyes - is waiting fully clothed. 'I'm Angie, from Clapham,' she says, as I sit down. 'So what have you done before?'

I mutter something about commercials. Angie, it transpires, is auditioning for the same part as me and has had a couple of bit-parts in various films.

Simone Kilshaw, a senior producer, joins us and asks me if I could change into a short skirt and heels.

'I need to make sure your legs are OK and that you look nice in a mini,' she explains.

Strip down to a mini-skirt

I am not thrilled at the prospect of parading past Craig and Simone in a micro mini, but it's clearly the only way to get a part in this film.

When my turn comes, I am handed a heavy silver tray and have to balance a bottle of wine and two glasses, wearing teetering heels and a very tight, short skirt. As I strut away, I notice costars Steve Hart and Rick Yune at one of the upstairs windows of the villa peering out at me.

I am then asked to read a few lines and tell Craig and Simone a little about myself so they can hear my voice.

They type busily at a laptop as I speak and then ask me to wait inside the villa while they consider their verdict. I go inside to change back into the comfort of my jeans and wait for 15 minutes.

Then Simone appears, clipboard in hand, and announces the words I had been waiting for. 'You've got the part, Craig thinks you look perfect,' she beams.

'We are filming in June and July so we will be in touch. Leave your contact details with the PA on your way out, and congratulations.'

As I leave the sprawling white hill-top villa, passing a line of cars, including a bright yellow Lamborghini, a black MG and a red Ferrari, I can't help feeling I have dipped my toe into another world - and I'm not entirely sure it's for me.

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