Royal rumblings: Grace of Monaco at Cannes

Royal rumblings: Grace of Monaco at Cannes

Grace of Monaco serves up large helping of Cannes polemic; controversy over ‘fictional nature’ of biopic casts cloud over very festival that saw the coming together of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier III.

By (AFP)

Published: Mon 12 May 2014, 10:24 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 8:14 PM

Take a furious princely family, add a transatlantic row between prominent movie personalities, top with Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman and you get the opening film of the 67th Cannes Film Festival.

The biopic Grace of Monaco premieres on Wednesday at the start of the glitzy event, and already it is mired in controversy that threatens to cast a cloud over the very festival that allowed Grace Kelly to meet Prince Rainier III in 1955.

She wed him soon after in what the press dreamily described as the “the marriage of the century”, renouncing her career as the glamorous actress every American girl wanted to emulate and taking on the official role of a princess.

But rather than illustrate her life as a whole, the film focuses on a period of high tensions between the tiny rock and France in 1962 that prompted the princess to turn down an offer by Alfred Hitchcock to return to her beloved acting.

While these are well-documented events, the movie is not to everyone’s liking — least of all Grace’s children who have furiously disavowed it.

Prince Albert II and his sisters Caroline and Stephanie insist that the film, which also features British actor Tim Roth as Prince Rainier, does not accurately portray events involving their mother.

“The trailer appears to be a farce and confirms the totally fictional nature of this film,” they said last week in a statement.

“The Princely Family does not in any way wish to be associated with this film which reflects no reality and regrets that its history has been misappropriated for purely commercial purposes.”

For the film’s French director Olivier Dahan — who was behind the award-winning biopic of Edith Piaf La Vie en Rose — the reaction is “a little disproportionate”.

He told the Le Parisien weekly magazine this month that the family had been given “several versions” of the script and had “suggested several modifications”, some of which were taken into account.

Dahan acknowledged there was a slight anti-French feeling in the film, as the story happens when Prince Rainier was locked in a fiscal row with then President Charles de Gaulle, who was exasperated over French nationals taking up residence in Monaco to avoid paying taxes.

The following year, Monaco and France signed a pact ruling that all French residents in the Rock would have to pay income tax to Paris.

As if the princely seal of disapproval was not enough, Dahan has been locked in a long-standing tussle with the film’s powerful US distributor Harvey Weinstein.

Dahan and Weinstein have been at loggerheads for months over the final version of the movie — whose release has been delayed several times — with director and producer accusing Weinstein of trying to blackmail them into signing off on a new, breezier edit.

“Harvey Weinstein has made a very different film, where the order of scenes has changed and aspects of the script have been erased,” producer Pierre-Ange Le Pogam told the Le Parisien magazine.

“We want to show a real crisis situation between Grace and her husband and he wants to tell a fairytale, give Americans a lesson on Monaco and Grace Kelly.”

According to entertainment weekly Variety, Weinstein is now considering dropping US distribution rights altogether if his version does not prevail in the United States.

The film has been snapped up by many countries around the world, including China where more than 3,000 cinemas are waiting for it, but Americans may still have to wait a little longer.

Nevertheless, despite all the controversy, film-makers are banking on the power of Grace Kelly to enthral more than 30 years after her death in a car accident at the age of 52.

“I can see why a film-maker would want to put Kelly back on screen, even by proxy,” Jude Quillan, author of The Comeback, a thriller that features Kelly as a character, told Britain’s The Independent newspaper.

“She was gorgeous, beguilingly enigmatic, smart, resourceful, conflicted and totally timeless.”

Lights, camera... controversy

Following is a selection of Cannes controversies ahead of this year’s film festival which runs from May 14 to 25:

  • PRINCELY SEAL OF DISAPPROVAL: If all publicity is good publicity, then this year’s opener Grace of Monaco about the Hollywood star who married her prince is off to a flying start.

“Catastrophic” is how French director Olivier Dahan described what US distributor Harvey Weinstein wanted to do to his lovingly-crafted oeuvre although other comments were less repeatable. Just when the transatlantic row looked like it was quietening down, the Grimaldi family weighed in with their own howls of protest, calling the trailer a “farce” that confirmed “the totally fictional nature” of the film. The rumbling polemic threatens to cast more storm clouds over Wednesday’s opening ceremony when the movie starring Nicole Kidman will premiere and be simultaneously released in France and other cities around the world.

  • FAINTINGS AND WALK-OUTS: Denmark’s Lars Von Trier’s gothic thriller Antichrist about love and madness provoked gasps and walk-outs at the 2009 festival with its graphic nature. At least four people fainted and critics jeered during screenings, but French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg won the best actress award for her explicit role.
  • PROFESSIONAL PROVOCATEUR: Lars von Trier also provided the controversy in 2011 when he told a news conference he sympathised “a little bit” with Adolf Hitler, prompting organisers to ban him from the festival. “I understand Hitler. I think he did some wrong things, yes absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end,” Von Trier told reporters after a screening of his apocalyptic film Melancholia.
  • HANKY PANKY ALERT: British starlet Simone Silva caused a stir when she took her top off during a 1954 festival photo shoot with US superstar Robert Mitchum, prompting a scrum among photographers that reportedly led to a few broken bones. Shocked festival organisers asked her to leave immediately, and three years later, the actress met an early demise when she died of a stroke aged 29 due to what her friends said was heavy dieting.
  • POLITICAL HAND GRENADE: In 2004, the festival awarded Michael Moore the Palme d’Or for his anti-George Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, prompting the US press to slam a “political hand grenade lobbed at the White House”. Entertainment giant Walt Disney Corp. found the film too contentious and refused to distribute it ahead of November presidential elections in the United States, selling its rights to producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Bush went on to win a second term in office.

Cannes in figures


The feature-length films submitted to the festival of which 18 are in the competition for the Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize, and 20 in the new talent Un Certain Regard section.


The number of 18-carat gold leaves on the crystal Palme d’Or, the festival’s top prize. The award is made by Swiss jewellers Chopard.


The movie professionals taking part in the The Film Market, the business arm of the festival where films are bought and sold.


The number of film-makers who have won Cannes’ top prize twice: Billie August, Francis Ford Coppola, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Shohei Imamura, Emir Kusturica, Michael Haneke and Alf Sjoberg.


The length in metres of Cannes’ fabled red carpet, which ascends 24 steps at the Palais des Festivals. The red carpet gets used several times a day for different screenings.


The hand prints taken by Nadine Seul who each year seeks out the biggest stars to press their hands into a block of clay that is turned into a stainless steel cast and placed on the Allee des Etoiles.


The years, excluding its suspension during WWII, when the festival has been disrupted or failed to go ahead due to war, shortage of funding or civil unrest: 1939; 1948, 1950 and 1968.


Members of the media that covered the festival in 2013. Over the decades, interest has mushroomed with the media numbering just 700 in 1966 and 1,150 in 1973.

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