A Party in Cannes Announces a New Hollywood Power Player

For a few hours on Tuesday evening, David Zaslaf seemed like the luckiest man in the world.

“look at this!” declared the 63-year-old media executive, pointing to the ice blue piscine Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, a seaside resort on the French Riviera with a swimming pool Immortalized by Slim Aaron.

The yacht bobbed away; Searchlights crossed the sky. Somewhere in the crowd was Leonardo DiCaprio wearing it. Vegan shoesand Lily Rose was smoking a deep Cuban cigar.

Not long ago, as the boss of Middlebrow Discovery Inc., Mr. Zaslaw was known as a cable TV magnate who hosted “My 600-lb Life” and “Dr. Pimple Popper.” Night of the Party, a year after Discovery WarnerMedia a Blockbuster deal — and put Mr. Zaslav in charge of HBO, CNN and the Warner Bros. film studio — hanging out with Scarlett Johansson and having dinner at a table with Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro.

Officially, the event, a social highlight of the Cannes Film Festival, was a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Warner Bros. Unofficially, it was the enlistment of a new Hollywood mogul.

As a relative newcomer to this rarefied milieu, Mr. Zaslaw enlisted an expert guide—his co-host for the evening, Graydon Carterwho turned Vanity Fair’s Oscar party into a spectacular annual event during his 25-year run as the magazine’s editor. Now Airmail, Mr. Carter’s high-profile newsletter, was making its Cannes debut.

“I love the motion picture business, and will be here in Cannes tonight…” Mr. Zaslav trailed off. At one point, an illustration of himself and Mr. Carter driving a vintage Mercedes with Rivera was projected onto the famous pool surface. “Here we are, two best friends, at the Hotel du Cap,” he said. “I don’t know – it doesn’t get better!”

Mr. Zaslaw’s troubles were thousands of miles away.

Wags on Twitter were mocking streaming platform HBO Max’s decision to drop “HBO,” a change that took effect just hours before the party began. CNN faced a long backlash for its town hall with former President Donald J. Trump, and the network’s ratings occasionally fell below those of right-wing cable news station Newsmax.

Then there was the Hollywood Writers’ Strike. While other studio chiefs, such as Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, canceled appearances and kept a low profile amid labor disputes, Mr. Zaslav pushed ahead. On Sunday, before flying to France, he gave a commencement address at Boston University, where he had been. He said with a frown (and then memorialized) by students who chanted, “Pay your writers!”

There were no picket lines in the south of France, due to local police. Banned them. And the Mediterranean temperament was more forgiving.

Playwright Jeremy O’Harris was among the guests at the Hotel du Cap. “I have a show with HBO,” she said, “so David is still technically my boss, even though we’re on strike.” He added that he had come to Cannes “as an actor” – he has a role in a film screening at the festival.Sweet East” – and he tried to treat “all the work and activity I do around the writers’ strike here with the same spirit.”

Like other guests, Mr. Harris said he was thrilled to snag one of his custom-printed ashtrays. “I exist in the world, while also knowing that there’s something really dark going on in my corner of it,” he said.

As Mr. Zaslav talked about Loro Piana loafers, his co-host, Mr. Carter, watched as he removed. This was Mr. Zaslaf’s second visit to Cannes. Mr. Carter, 73, has been a regular here for about 25 years.

Airmail has a continental flavor and a growing readership but is not yet a household name. So, late last year, Mr. Carter dusted off the Rolodex and threw a party for his plan at the Odeon restaurant in lower Manhattan. When Mr. Zaslav approached him with the idea of ​​hosting something on Oscar night, he turned to Cannes, where he had held an annual party for most of his Vanity Fair tenure. Adding to the intrigue: Vanity Fair, now headed by editor Radhika Jones, was planning her Hotel du Cap bash. In a very Hewitt-mond sense, it was war.

At the hotel Tuesday morning, Mr. Carter was gearing up for a last-minute meeting about the seating chart. Compared to Espresso, he hesitated at the notion of rivalry with his old employer and was uneasy about what he had heard about the Vanity Fair event a few days earlier. “I believe it was right,” he said.

(Jeff Bezos and Mr. De Niro attended the Vanity Fair party Saturday night, though the weather was inclement. Miuccia Prada, whose namesake brand co-hosted the event, did not attend; a Prada spokeswoman said (There was a scheduling conflict.)

Mr. Carter said he met Mr. Zaslaw 25 years ago through mutual owners: the Newhouse family, which owns Condé Nast and is also an investor in Discovery Inc. (the family also owns a stake in Warner Bros. Discovery; .) The men bonded over a shared love of Turner Classic Movies, a channel that is now part of Mr. Zaslaw’s stable. And now Mr. Carter has played the role of Henry Higgins with great gusto.

He helped broker Mr. Zaslaw purchase the late producer’s Beverly Hills home. Robert Evans, cohabiting with his ex-wife, Ali McGrath (a friend). Mr. Carter said he and his longtime architect, Basil Walter, who was also at the party, were redesigning the Warner Bros. commissary in Burbank, Calif. said Mr. Carter.

During the last writers’ strike, in 2008, Mr. Carter Vanity Fair’s Oscar party has been canceled.. How about this year at Cannes? “It’s a celebration of what writers have done, so it’s not like it’s against their cause,” he added, adding, “Writers aren’t paid as much as they should be.”

A few minutes later, Mr. Zaslaw surrounded and hugged Mr. Carter with his brother.

“I’ve been working hard on this party,” Mr. Zaslav said with a smile, “calling Graydon every couple of days to ask how it’s going.”

After disembarking from luxury cars in the palm-shaded driveway of the Hotel du Cap, guests were greeted Tuesday with hugs and handshakes from Mr. Zaslav and Mr. Carter — in nearly matching tan linen blazers. “Not on purpose,” said Mr. Carter, a Pygmalion eyeing his pupil warily.

Inside, there were enough ashtrays to fill the “21” club when everyone smoked. Staff in black and white livery were quick to provide lighters for smokers.

Actor John C. Reilly in hat and three-piece suit took the scene to heart. Eva Longoria and Oliver Stone cross paths. Ms. Depp and Troye Sivan, whose HBO series “The Idol” premiered the night before, looked alert after the party, which lasted into the morning. Heiress Daphne Guinness sparkled in a silver gown and her signature two-tone updo. Boy George was there in a very tall hat.

Hotel du Cap resonates with many of Mr. Carter’s interests: Old Hollywood, The Lost Generation and mid-century European glamour. It is the “big, proud, pink hotel” in the opening lines of Fitzgerald’s “Tender as the Night” and a favorite haunt of Picasso and Hemingway, Burton and Taylor, Dylan and Bardot. Ms Bardot’s stepson, the Swiss artist Ralph Sachs, who arrived in a neat cobalt frock, observed that the hotel had long been “part of the creation of the new bourgeoisie”.

“Graden has the oomph to bring together a very mixed crowd,” he said.

Dinner was served on Bernardaud plates. Dessert was an unusual candy bar called “Comme un Snickers.” Things really kicked off when a well-dressed child arrived a few minutes after 11 p.m., his stroller carried down the curved staircase by a hotel porter. Another popular guest was Maxie, a 3-month-old caramel-colored maltese, who, like many of the participants, came from New York.

Maxie, who was busy licking an ice cube, declined to comment, but her owner Film producer And Venetian slipper cleaner Stewart Parr, marveled at the tablescapes. “It’s made of ceramic, not plastic,” he said, pointing to an Airmail-branded match striker nestled among the white orchids. “That tells you everything.”

The sting went on a few minutes before midnight. Ms. Johansson arrived with her husband, Colin Jost, after the premiere of Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City,” in which she stars. He chatted on the dance floor with his agent and CAA co-chairman Brian Lord and New York Times executive editor Joe Kahn. (Mr. Kahn sat with Mr. Carter and Mr. Walter at dinner.)

Mr. Zaslav may have been the co-host, but some of the guests still knew him. Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, said he met Mr. Zaslav for the first time that evening and admired his sense of film history. Boy George said he found Mr. Zaslav “very cute.”

As with any industry event, some business was done. Mr. Zaslav, Mr. De Niro and Mr. DiCaprio were tossing around new titles for “Wise Guys,” a mob drama that Mr. Zaslav green-lit after taking over Warner Bros.’s Boy George, which he said would be a Hollywood crowd pleaser. Also ready for the role. Throw your way: “I’m talking to Rebel Wilson about playing his gay friend.”

By 2 a.m., when the disco and new wave music faded and the house lights came on, Mr. Zaslav was still working in the living room. He shook hands with the DJ.

The view of the slowly emptying pool deck—purple sky, deep sea, white yacht—was more or less what longtime studio president Jack Warner once enjoyed. Villa Ajoordhoiof that Summer housesabout 700 meters away.

Vanessa Friedman Cooperation reporting.

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