Celluloid Spice steals Hollywood's limelight in Cannes

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The Independent Online
There was wall-to-wall showbiz glamour and youthful glitz, but last night all attention at the Cannes Film Festival was on a 79-year- old film director who did not even show up.

Ingmar Bergman lived up to his reclusive image when he failed to appear to receive a prestigious "Palm of Palms" award at the 50th annual festival at the Palais des Festivals.

The Oscar-winning Swedish veteran, who has made more than 30 films in his lengthy career, said he was too old to collect the prize in person. Instead, it was accepted on his behalf by Norwegian actress Bibi Andersson and Norwegian star Liv Ullmann, who read a typically brief statement from the director. It said:"After years and years of playing with the images of life and death, life itself has finally caught up with me and made me shy and silent. I want to say thank you to everybody."

Bergman, who made The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries and Persona, was selected for the prize by two dozen surviving Palme d'Or winners, including Britain's Mike Leigh and Roland Joffe, and the United States' Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. Earlier, the Golden Palm winners lunched with French President Jacques Chirac - the first time a sitting president has visited the film festival.

In the audience were dozens of stars, including Britain's Liz Hurley and boyfriend Hugh Grant, Jeremy Irons and Kate Winslet - who arrived on the arms of veteran Hollywood actor Charlton Heston and Hamlet director Kenneth Branagh. The American Andie MacDowell wore in a gold lame dress with a white ostrich feathered neckline and cuffs.

Earlier in the day it was announced that the pop group the Spice Girls would be seen as they have never been seen before. Announcing Spice the Movie, producer Uri Fruchtmann promised the opportunity to see behind the scenes in a film based on one week in the lives of Britain's most famous female band. Richard E Grant, star of The Player and Withnail and I, will play their neurotic manager in the movie which will be released at the end of the year to coincide with the group's second album.

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, who are making the film, said it would "capture all the crazy situations and wacky people behind the scenes. The film will be full of music, energy and, most of all, all five of the gorgeous and very independent women".

Every ounce of that wacky independence was on display yesterday as the deal was announced. Although initially told to be quiet by a PolyGram spokesman, they then let rip by ordering 250 journalists to perform a Mexican wave and ridiculing those who asked questions.