* Charity dinner an A-list highlight at French festival
* Had become closely associated with disgraced movie mogul
* Sting, Grace Jones to perform; Ai Weiwei, Michelangelo on sale
* AmfAR dinner raises money for AIDS research
By Robin Pomeroy
CAP D’ANTIBES, France, May 17 (Reuters) - Stars, models and the super-rich gathered near Cannes on Thursday for a charity dinner considered the most glamorous night of the film festival, but there was one notable absence: Harvey Weinstein.
Until this year, the movie mogul rarely missed the amfAR dinner, put on by the U.S.-based Foundation For AIDS Research.
However, he was not there at the opening of the event on Thursday and amfAR this month appointed 25 women, including actresses Sienna Miller and Kate Hudson, to be “honorary chairs” of the event.
Weinstein’s representatives did not comment directly on his absence but said he had helped the event collect more than $170 million over the years and would “continue to quietly be supportive and passionate for AmfAR”.
Hollywood Reporter called him the event’s “driving force”, bringing A-list talent to the dinner where an auction of artworks, fashion and ultra-elite experiences raises millions of dollars for AIDS research.
Weinstein’s career skyrocketted when “Pulp Fiction”, the Quentin Tarantino film he produced, won the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 1994. But he was brought down last year by scandal. More than 70 women have accused him of sexual misconduct, including rape. Weinstein has denied engaging in nonconsensual sex.
The event faces “a critical test for its viability”, Hollywood Reporter said in an article suggesting it had become tainted by the scandal due to Weinstein’s former involvement.
“Tonight’s event is going to be just as exciting and entertaining as always while raising critical funds for AIDS Research,” amfAR said in reply to Reuters’ request for comment.
Hundreds of guests were invited to the event held at Cap-Eden-Roc, an exclusive hotel on the Cap d’Antibes juts into the Mediterranean along the coast Cannes.
Grace Jones, Ellie and Sting are due to perform and the lots at auction include a sculpture by Ai Weiwei, a vintage Bentley convertible and an authorised replica of Michelangelo’s David, with proceeds going amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.
Stars often also offer themselves for auction. Last year David Beckham raised 350,000 euros ($415,000) for a chance to play soccer with him.
Another year George Clooney auctioned a kiss for $350,000 and, in 2008, Weinstein joked he might put himself up for bids, but admitted: “No one would pay for me”.
In 1999, when asked if he would get the host Sharon Stone to “strut some stuff” to help raise money, he replied: “Listen I’ll make Sharon do a striptease for the charity.”
The Cannes Film Festival to May 19. ($1 = 0.8488 euros) (Reporting by Robin Pomeroy Editing by Alison Williams and Andrew Heavens)