Just before returning to NY I flew from Paris to Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic where Delirious was presented as the Opening Night film. At the Opening Night ceremony a long line of limousines dropped guests off in front of the theatre. Hundreds of townspeople watched and applauded as a pair of male and female TV journalists in evening dress announced each arrival in Czech. Once seated in the huge hall a tremor of fear gripped me and kept growing despite my attempts to talk myself out of it. There were about 2000 people in the audience. The president of the Czech Republic sat with his wife a few seats away. Rene Zellweiger got up and gave a Lifetime Achievement award to a famous Czech animator. She was wearing her jeans and a T-shirt. Sadly, her luggage had been lost and it had taken significant effort to from the Festival directors to get her to make the presentation at all. They were so distraught that they offered to buy her an entire new wardrobe for the event. The rumor was the head of British Airways had been crawling through the luggage carousel on her hands and knees looking for the Zellweiger bags. After more than an hour she emerged with only a toothbrush and $700 pair of powder blue underwear.
When it came time for me to introduce the film, I just walked out and came clean. “I’m very nervous right now,” I said. “I don’t know if it’s because the President is here or because Rene Zellweiger is here. All I know is I’ve never presented a film to a president before. And actually I’m not sure I’d present this film to my president.” This got some nervous laughter because a few people in the Czech Republic actually like Bush.
At the party afterwards I ran into a journalist from Variety. He was with a large group that included Leonardo DiCaprio’s mother. After congratulating me on the film and informing me the people with him had liked it he leaned close to whisper this ominous prediction:“The American press reaction is going to go like this: first they will like it. Then they will reconsider and turn against you because the film is too much about them. They will see themselves as Les, the desperate paparazzo, and hold it against you.”
Nothing could have depressed me more at that moment. I almost asked to meet Leonardo’s mother to see if I could get her son to go on Entertainment Tonight and make a statement on my behalf. I did hear that a Czech journalist had asked the President what he’d thought of Delirious. Apparently he’d liked it. His wife though, when asked the same question, simply walked away.
Went back to my hotel room. From the window I could see and hear the party still going on 5 floors below. Something came fluttering down out of the night sky and landed on the balcony railing. I approached and cautiously picked it up. It was a pair of women’s powder blue underwear. They were definitely not Hanes. From the open window of the floor above I faintly heard a woman’s voice murmering something that sounded like, “You had me at hello.”
I dropped the garment down onto the partygoers below; my parting gift to the Czech people. The next morning, after 2 countries, 8 cities and 11 hotel rooms I flew home.