Here’s the Story Behind My Photo of Two People Having Sex on Cannes’ Red Carpet

Headshot of David Griner

CANNES, France—Around 4:30 a.m. local time Tuesday, I tweeted a photo of two people going at it on one of advertising’s most iconic destinations: the Cannes Lions red carpet.

Then I went to bed. By the time I got up, the tweet was already getting some attention. Then Wednesday came along, and everything truly went crazy.

By the end of the day, my photo had been retweeted more than 400 times, was on the front page of Reddit, and had been covered in Page Six, Gawker, Us Weekly, Perez Hilton, Barstool Sports, E! Online, Cosmopolitan, Esquire and probably a few other places I haven’t noticed yet.

Since it became such a hot topic at the Cannes Lions, I’ve gotten a bunch of questions, so I figured I’d go ahead and tell a bit more of the story for those who are curious.

The whole thing happened at the end of a pretty long night when some of us jetlagged Americans decided to drop by an agency’s relaxed get-together at an apartment whose balcony overlooked the Palais where most Cannes Lions events take place. Front and center at the Palais is the red carpet, used for both the Cannes Film Festival and this Saturday’s Cannes Lions awards show.

It was nice. We had some wine, talked shop and ate some pastries while enjoying the breeze and people-watching. (Page Six called it a “raging” party, which admittedly would be a solid guess in most parts of Cannes, but this one was actually super chill.)

As I was getting ready to leave, I pointed across the street and said, “Hey look, two people are having sex on the red carpet.”

The few of us remaining all watched the scene unfold, occasionally looking at each other with the “Is this really happening?” face. Since we couldn’t really see the couple’s faces, I snapped a photo with my iPhone just for a laugh. I didn’t even think you’d really be able to see them at all with the giant glowing sign overhead and general darkness.

After 20 minutes or so (not bad, all things considered), they finished up, gathered their scattered shoes and belongings, and walked away arm in arm. They got a smattering of applause.

I can’t say I really felt like we or the other late-night balcony dwellers were intruding on a private moment, since it was most certainly quite public. (There were several security guards on street level a few dozen feet away, but they either couldn’t see the top of the steps or didn’t care. Vive la France.)

I think the whole thing was oddly sweet and admirably adventurous. We all joke about embracing the YOLO mindset, but this one really sets the bar, and a lot of people seem to agree that the couple deserve credit for seizing one hell of a memorable moment.

Even a site as notoriously cynical as Gawker titled its coverage of the photo, “Nothing But Love For the Couple Found Fucking on the Cannes Red Carpet,” while Barstool Sports admitted, “Gotta Tip Your Cap To The People Fucking Right In The Middle Of The Cannes Red Carpet.”

Here are some of my favorite Twitter responses:

I certainly didn’t expect the photo to become one of the big talking points of this year’s festival, and I do hope the amorous pair are able to remain anonymous. (I wouldn’t have posted a photo if I felt they might be identifiable. There are thousands of people from all over the world in Cannes this week, and there’s always the chance these two weren’t even here for the festival.)

Cannes has no shortage of illicit activity, but usually it’s just the drunken debauchery of the entitled rich. This time, despite the exhibitionism of it, the whole scene felt heartwarming and empowering in its own weird way.

So, good job, you two. At a conference packed with people angling to be seen as edgy, passionate and bold, you’ve one-upped them all.

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."