The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Bernard and Barker of Sony Pictures Classics share their best Cannes stories

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CANNES, France - The Cannes Film Festival is only half through, but it's already been a banner festival for Sony Pictures Classics.

The specialty distributor has long been a major presence in Cannes, but rarely has it been as dominant. Sony Pictures Classics brought five films to present Cannes (their most ever), including competition entries "Foxcatcher," by Bennett Miller, and Mike Leigh's J.M.W. "Mr. Turner." They also have the Russian hockey documentary "Red Army," Zhang Yimou's Chinese period film "Coming Home" and "Whiplash," an American indie award-winner at Sundance.

It has added two more during the festival: the fashion icon biopic "Saint Laurent" and the episodic Argentine satire "Wild Tales."

Cannes is a familiar stomping ground for SPC co-founders Tom Bernard and Michael Barker. They haven't missed a festival in three decades: "Same hotel, same room," says Barker. "I hide stuff in the room to see if it makes it through the year," says Bernard.

As two of the top players in art house cinema and one of the most likable, long-lasting duos in the industry, they've overseen hundreds of releases that have yielded some 100 Oscar nominations. They've distributed films for Woody Allen (including his upcoming "Magic in the Moonlight"), Pedro Almodovar and many others.

They also have some top-notch Cannes stories on eluding festival security, the strict attire regulations and seeing Akira Kurosawa snub Madonna. Here are a few from a recent interview:

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Barker: Tom and I at Orion (Pictures) in the mid-80s released Akira Kurasawa's "Ran" and he always kept up with us. That lunch started with me wearing a white shirt and my pen burst in my pocked. That was the year of "Last Action Hero" and they were having a big event at the Hotel du Cap. Someone gave me a T-shirt for "Last Action Hero." And I'll never forget, that was the same year that Madonna had that movie "Truth or Dare." We sat out on the terrace of the du Cap with Kurosawa and at the next table was Madonna having lunch. She wanted to meet Kurosawa and he said through his translator, "No, I don't think so."

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Barker: "Midnight in Paris." I had worn these brown boots before. And the guy said, "You can't go in." I said, "It's our movie!" So I had to go across the street and buy some black shoes and leave my boots with the guy in the shoe store to pick up the next day." I always carry an extra bow tie in my pocket for fear that they won't let you in.

Bernard: The only guy I've seen get is Mike Tyson. He showed up with a bright yellow jacket and an open shirt and they let him right in.

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Barker: We learned you got to be careful about being invited on boats for events because then you can't get off the freaking boat.

Bernard: We lost "Cinema Paradiso" locked on a boat. There was this boat in the '80s, it was full of exhibitors. It was called the Young Millionaires Club. There was no way out.

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Bernard: It's always: I've got to get to the screening. Michael and I are going up the stairs and there's a screening room off to the side off the big Palais. But the guys are not letting us in. We decide: Let's make a run for it. Michaels says, "I'll run up the stairs. You go for the door." We bolt and the guys start chasing Barker. I make it in and I peek out the door and these two guys have Michael off the ground coming down the stairs.

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Bernard: There was this movie called "Cliffhanger." And they wanted us to go. So we went and two things happened. One, when everyone left the theatre, they decided to make pretend that it was snowing. So all the soap suds of the detergent wrecked everyone's cloths. We had to go do something else, so we ran back to the hotel to change so no one would know we were at that screening.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle

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