CANNES--Robin Williams killed 'em at Cannes yesterday in one of the highlights of this 50th anniversary year.
The unpredictable Williams took over a press conference that was set up to announce his new $70-million film What Dreams May Come. He convulsed the media as he riffed on the Spice Girls, his dancing penis dreams, phone calls, police sirens and anything else that popped into his fertile noggin.
A British journalist asked Williams if he had a favorite among the Spice Girls. After initial confusion ("I thought she said 'Spy Scouts' and didn't know what was going on," Williams told me later) he went off:
"They're all pretty neat. I have to pick one? Can't you have them all? Why do you have to pick one? That relates back to dreams: Wet Dream May Come. I haven't picked a Spice Girl yet--but thank you for offering."
When a piercing wail of a French police car siren went off in the background, Williams pretended to jump up to leave and said: "Excuse me, my ride is here!"
When a cell phone rang, he asked the embarrassed journalist to take a message: "Tell them I'm not here at the moment." When another phone rang he burbled: "It's the Larry King Live Show." When a baby in the audience cried, so did Williams as he exclaimed: "It's a boy! Cut the umbilical cord--but the director gets final cut!"
Asked about his dreams, Williams said: "My dreams are pretty vivid. I talk about them in therapy. The dancing penis one is pretty interesting. I have very, very vivid dreams, especially since I gave up drugs years ago."
Expounding on the Cannes Film Festival experience (it's his first), Williams declared: "It's Disneyland by Dante!"
Encouraged to talk about his co-star in What Dreams May Come, Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. of Jerry Maguire fame, Williams exploded: "Cuba is my man. But today he is walking around the streets of Cannes saying: 'Show me the monnaie!' I'm terrified, but I know I will hold my own because I am the furriest man alive."
Gooding struggled valiantly to keep up at the press conference but it was pointless. So he went for more ordinary answers to questions. Asked about his now famous Oscar acceptance speech, Gooding said: "It's so funny. I'm kind of embarrassed now. I kind of blew a gasket up there."
None of the actors got a chance to describe their new movie, which starts shooting under New Zealand director Vincent Ward (Map Of the Human Heart) June 23 in San Francisco and rural Montana.
Williams plays a man who dies in an accident and 'wakes' to find himself inside one of his painter wife's own canvases in the world of magical Summerland. Gooding will play Williams' spirit guide. Annabella Sciorra was signed yesterday in Cannes to play the role of Williams' wife.
The movie will be comic at times "but it will plunge into some very, very deep, dark emotional territory," Williams said in a private interview after his raucous press conference. "This will be a very intense journey into the afterlife."
Cannes starpower has already raised $350,000 for AIDS research in the annual Cinema Against AIDS benefit at the five-star restaurant le Moulin de Mougins. That was just for tickets for last night's gala, which also featured an auction hosted by Demi Moore, who stepped in for the still ailing Elizabeth Taylor.
The guest list included: Elizabeth Hurley, Sean Penn, Geena Davis, Tim Burton, Robin Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Lauren Bacall, Hugh Grant, Vanessa Redgrave, John Travolta and U.S. swimmer Greg Louganis.