Pete Hammond

Would you pay €1.5 million ($1.94 million) to spend a weekend at Oscar parties? Or €1.8 million to fly to the moon on Virgin Galactic with Leonardo DiCaprio?  Someone did — and more. That happened at amFAR’s annual Cinema Against AIDS Cannes Film Festival gala’s very special 20th anniversary Thursday night. Co-hosts Weinstein and Kenneth Cole announced to a roomful of very high rollers that the event, held of the Hotel Du Cap, raised €25 million ($32.3 million), smashing last year’s record total of over €10 million. The ultra-high style party is a two  decades long staple of the Cannes festival, and Weinstein told me if it just made a dollar more than the previous year they’d be happy. But these multimillionaires and billionaires obviously came to play this year and really stepped up at the auction that featured numerous stars including jury members Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz, along with Jessica Chastain, Jeremy Renner, Rosario Dawson, Heidi Klum, Goldie Hawn, Janet Jackson, Adrien Brody and major fundraiser/auctioneer Sharon Stone.

Weinstein said the event — which he, Elizabeth Taylor and Dr. Mathilda Krim started in 1993 — changed up the rules this year and decided to focus primarily on just 10 major items rather than 20, and the crowd responded. Items included original art by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst, a family portrait by Annie Leibovitz (two of those went for €450,000 apiece), a private performance by Duran Duran (who also played at this event) and a weekend at the Oscars (which doesn’t include actually even going to the Oscars). Still someone paid €1.5 million — the highest single price for any item in the auction — to attend the Weinstein Company’s pre-Oscar party, Saturday’s Spirit Awards, The Elton John and Vanity Fair parties and a two-night stay at a Beverly Hills Hotel in addition to a Chopard watch. Oh, and they threw in Heidi Klum as your date. A second winner paid only €500,000 but didn’t get Klum in the package.

Renner and Kidman auctioned off the “moon trip” with Leo, which also includes three days of training with him in New Mexico. That went for €1.2 million, and a second trip for two fetched €1.8 million. DiCaprio who clearly was in the mood to give, actually got outbid for a week’s stay at Donna Karan’s house on the private island of Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos; it went for €200,000, 20 grand more than his bid. Walk-on parts in four Weinstein movies, including Chef with Bradley Cooper and Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, was a relative bargain at €140,000, despite co-star Waltz’s promise to “write a scene for the two of us”. The Hirst painting took in €800,000, an Azure motorcycle got €600,000; a 120-year-old bottle of Moet & Chandon drew €50,000 and a Warhol lithograph of Elizabeth Taylor — one of 300 — grabbed €600,000.

Highlights of the night included Dame Shirley Bassey belting out “Goldfinger“, just as she did at the Oscars, and a lively fashion show with more than 30 looks from the world’s foremost designers. After the show, all the clothes were auctioned off as a single package for a cool €1.2 million. Stone even offered to throw in her own designer gown. “Anyone want my dress? I’ve gone home in a tablecloth before,” she said in order to raise the bid. Brody even took off his own Bulgari watch and managed to sell it for €90,000. Paris Hilton even showed up. When I caught up with her in the Du Cap lobby, I asked what she thought of Sofia Coppola’s Un Certain Regard entry The Bling Ring, which is about a group of teens who break in and steal from the likes of Hilton. “I loved it. She shot in my house,” she said. “I’ve been robbed so many times. I think these girls actually got only two years. If it had been me, they would have locked me up for 10 years.”

Weinstein remembered when they started the amFAR event 20 years ago in a small restaurant and made $300,000 thanks to Johnny Depp and Sean Penn. Before tonight’s haul, the event had grossed $80 million. A special film was shown in remembrance of Taylor, to whom the evening was dedicated. Its message was clear. “Cinema Against AIDS is 20 years old tonight. So for Dame Elizabeth, don’t give up.”

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.