My walk down the red carpet07 july 2011, 15:40
I had always wondered what it would be like walking down the red carpet in a glittering film festival, with fans screaming and waving their arms at you.
Armand Assante gave me a chance to find out at the opening of the Second Astana International Action Film Festival – and it was as exhilarating as I could have imagined.
I had met Armand, who usually portrays tough guys in Hollywood movies, in Astana last fall. The veteran actor had been asked to speak at the World Forum of Spiritual Culture in Astana, and I interviewed him for a news story.
I took an instant liking to Armand. He’s not a snob like some of the actors I met when I was a journalist in Los Angeles a few years back. He’s a down-to-earth guy with a great mix of friends – and he sticks by those friends. And he has a terrific sense of humor.
A director and producer as well as an actor, Armand has been working on a documentary about Kazakhstan. So he’s been in and out of the country several times the past few months.
He came again last week, both to work on the documentary and to participate in the festival, along with action stars Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Michael Madsen and a host of Kazakh and Russian actors, producers, directors and other glitterati.
Armand emailed me before he arrived, saying we should get together. We hooked up in his room at the Rixos Hotel just before the grand opening of the film festival last Friday.
As the hour of the opening neared, I told him I needed to jump in a taxi to make sure I was at the event on time.
“Ride with us,” he said. “It’s no problem.”
So when Armand popped into a big black limo at the Rixos to attend the festival, I jumped in, too.
As we pulled into the driveway of the festival venue – the famed Pyramid, or Palace of Peace and Reconciliation – I told Armand I would walk alongside the red carpet and meet him at the building’s entrance.
“Naw,” he said, “come down the red carpet with us.”
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Sure,” he grinned.
We could hear the fans screaming as the limo neared the edge of the red carpet and a loudspeaker blared out in Russian: “And now, Hollywood actor Armand Assante!”
It was already noisy, but the fans erupted when Armand got out. He strode briskly to where they were – on the right side of the red carpet – and high-fived them during his entire walk to the Pyramid entrance. They loved it.
Meanwhile, walking to his left, I was getting curious looks from fans wondering who I was. A producer or director, maybe? Armand’s agent?
During the pandemonium the still photographers were taking my photo and the TV cameras were filming me – just in case I was a big shot.
I smiled at the fans, trying to look as Hollywood as I could. “Doggone it – why didn’t I bring my sunglasses?” I thought. “They would have made me look Hollywood cool.”
At the entrance to the Pyramid, Armand said: “You know, that’s gotta be the longest red carpet in the world.”
He was right.
It may have been a quarter of a kilometer between the place where the limo dropped us off and the entrance of the Pyramid – and festival organizers had laid red carpet all the way.
No measly 100-meter-long red carpet like in Hollywood. No sireee, this was the Astana International Action Film Festival. We do quarter-a-kilometer-long red carpets, thank you.
Inside the Pyramid, fans stormed Armand, asking for an autograph or for their picture to be taken with him. He complied with all requests – and would have stayed longer to accommodate the fans except that festival handlers were herding us toward the first film premiere.
As we walked into the theater, Armand cracked: “You don’t suppose they have popcorn here do you?”
Then he added: “You know what a box of popcorn costs at a movie theater in the States these days? Ten bucks. And a ticket is 16 bucks.”
The implication was that those prices were too high for many American fans to afford – something that clearly bothered a “man of the people” like Armand.
Suddenly we were in the theater listening to the speeches of festival organizers before the first film was shown. But I wasn’t hearing them.
I was thinking about how nice my red-carpet moment was – and was already dreaming about repeating it.
Armand, old buddy, when was it you said you’d be going to Cannes? I want to make my plane reservation in plenty of time.