CANNES, FRANCE • Hollywood film-maker Steven Spielberg was at Cannes on Saturday to premiere his latest movie as a fake terror attack panicked guests at the French Riviera hideaway of several Hollywood stars attending the film festival.
The publicity stunt by a French Internet company aimed at the super rich saw a speedboat of men in helmets and military-style uniforms attempt to storm the dock of the five-star Hotel du Cap just around the bay from Cannes.
Guests said the men were dressed as an "ISIS-like" militia group, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group, which killed 130 people in a night of attacks on Paris six months ago. Their inflatable speedboat also flew a black flag similar to the one used by ISIS. Chillingly, it happened on Friday, May 13, the first Friday the 13th in France since the Paris attacks last November.
Cannes has been on high terror alert for the festival, with a warship moored in the bay and snipers posted on hotel roofs.
Oraxy, the stunt organiser, describes itself on its website as "the world's first private global marketplace reserved for Ultra High Net Worth Individuals".
A police spokesman told Agence France-Presse that the men in the stunt had earlier tried to breach a sea exclusion zone around Cannes, but had been repulsed by the authorities. He said the men then tried to land at the hotel. Paramilitary gendarmes seized the boat, but the men were not formally arrested. "These men know that they have really overstepped the mark and today they feel ashamed," he added.
A justice official said that those behind the stunt would be prosecuted for breaking maritime rules and for inflicting "psychological trauma". The authorities were also investigating the owner of the boat who rented it out, he said.
The speedboat had earlier buzzed the yacht of Spielberg and another owned by Russian billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich.
Meanwhile, Spielberg, 69, said he still believes in magic as he premiered his whizzpopping, swizzfiggling The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) in Cannes to a mixed reception. Both adult "human beans" and "chiddlers" - children in the often befuddled Big Friendly Giant's vocabulary - were eagerly awaiting Spielberg's film, his adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved story and his first movie for Disney.
He described the fantastical tale of a giant who snatches a frightened young Sophie from an orphanage and takes her to live with him in Giant Country as "probably the closest I have ever come to telling a love story". Sophie quickly realises the giant - the runt of the litter he comes from - is a gentle vegetarian who tries to save her from the "canny-ball" giants with names like Bloodbottler and Fleshlumpeater.
"All of us have to believe in magic. The worse the world gets, the more magic we have to believe in - that magic will give us hope and... hope is everything for me," Spielberg, who used to read The BFG to his seven children, told reporters.
The Guardian hailed the performance of Mark Rylance as the gentle giant, in the "beautifully wrought" adaptation, which screened out of competition. Variety said the "splendid... adaptation makes it possible for audiences of all ages to wrap their heads around one of the unlikeliest friendships in cinema history, resulting in the sort of instant family classic 'human beans' once relied upon Disney to deliver".
But The Wrap website said it "misses the magic" and The Hollywood Reporter said it was a "conspicuously less captivating, magical and transporting experience" than Spielberg's E.T.
The movie was a long time coming and has been tinged with sadness, with last year's death of Melissa Mathison, 65, who adapted the book and who wrote the script for E.T. Producers also initially wanted to cast Robin Williams as the giant before his death in 2014.