The parting gift at Paramount’s lavish beachside fete on May 19 at the Cannes film festival was a dog tag. Etched on one side was a quote from Winston Churchill: ”The era of half-measures is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.”
The line was a plug for Al Gore’s global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, but partygoers could be forgiven for assuming it was a blunt confession from the studio itself. It’s been over a year since Brad Grey became chairman and CEO of Paramount, and the intervening time has not been kind to him. There have been layoffs. Oceans of bad press. The investigation of Grey’s connection to ethically dubious PI Anthony Pellicano, and ongoing, noisy rumors that Grey is about to be ousted. And as for the so-so Mission: Impossible III box office? Well, that’s been adequately covered in these pages. ”There’s been a lot of focus on us,” Grey told EW three days after his big party. ”The volume of criticism has been louder than we expected.”
If there were a studio that desperately needed a good week, it was Paramount. And it got one at Cannes. Grey and his team were everywhere. Holding court at the glitzy Hotel du Cap. Debuting footage from Oscar hopefuls like the Oliver Stone-directed World Trade Center and Beyoncé Knowles’ Dreamgirls (the latter snapped up when the studio bought DreamWorks). Relaunching their indie label with a new name (Paramount Vantage, which subsumes Paramount Classics) and a pair of buzzed-about movies (Babel, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, and An Inconvenient Truth) . The studio even threw a couple of good parties — no small feat considering one of them was headlined by Al Gore.
”The company is [nearly] 100 years old and they’ve had extraordinary years and rough years,” Grey said, reflecting on his first 14 months on the job. ”I can be patient. It comes down to the work. And if the work isn’t good, then so be it. But if the work is everything we believe it to be, people will come around.” Translation: Check your watch. It’s time for consequences.