June 10, 2013 12:00 PM

James Franco

at the Canal + Pier

Instead of decadent Mediterranean sun, there was a monsoon. In addition to red carpets, there were two jewel heists. But it takes more than that to dim the shimmer of the Cannes Film Festival. Just ask James Franco (in Gucci), who directed an adaption of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. “Our cast and crew walked to the red carpet from the Majestic hotel,” he told PEOPLE on a yacht-bedecked waterfront. “Walking with all my peeps on a beautiful night, going to see the movie we made that’s playing at the Cannes Film Festival! I think I’ve accomplished everything I’ve ever dreamed of, and I can die happy.”

Zoë Saldana

at Laduree

“I love Cannes,” said Saldana (in Emilio Pucci) between bites of macaron – she ate three! – at the famed French sweet shop. “It is so beautiful, and the festival lineup is always so amazing.” She brought her sister Cisely along to the premiere of her drama Blood Ties: “I was especially happy she was also there to experience Cannes together.”

Jerry Weintraub, Matt Damon & Michael Douglas

at the Hotel Du Cap-eden-roc

Nothing compares to Cannes for these film vets. Douglas, who recalled attending his first festival at 6 or 7 with his dad, Kirk, said, “It’s one of the great moments in film. I tell everybody, ‘When you go up the top steps of the Palais, turn around and take it all in.’ ” Same goes for the view at the du Cap, where the stars and executive producer of the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra relaxed over cappuccino.

Octavia Spencer & Michael B. Jordan

on the Harle

The stars of Fruitvale Station enjoyed rave reviews, yacht time and all the charms of the South of France. “I’m looking forward to trying some great food,” said Spencer (in Tadashi Shoji). “I’m not usually a rosé drinker,” added Jordan, “but I’m ready to try some. Look at this place – everywhere you look it’s just so beautiful!”

The Cast of The Bling Ring

at the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes

Bling Ring, about teens who robbed celebrity homes in Hollywood, might have inspired a copycat at the festival: Thieves made off with more than $2 million in jewels in two headline-making burglaries. Meanwhile the young stars of the movie (clockwise from top left, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard and Taissa Farmiga) got a priceless experience. “I wish I could have a hair-and-makeup team every day!” said newcomer Chang, who survived one rainy-day mishap: “I almost fell off of a mound of sand.”

Kristin Scott Thomas

at the Nikki Beach Terrace

After winning raves for her role as Ryan Gosling‘s crime-lord mother in Only God Forgives, Scott Thomas put the experience into perspective. “I’ll never forget the first time I walked up those steps almost 20 years ago,” she said. “The noise is incredible, with photographers screaming out your name, your film credits read aloud and booming out through the loudspeakers, and all the flashes. And then once the film is over, the standing ovation that lasts 20 minutes. When you have been there a few times, you realize that it’s pretty much the norm for everyone to get a standing ovation. So the films must all be amazing, right?”

Casey Affleck & Rooney Mara

at the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes

Fans stood in line for hours in driving rain to catch Affleck and Mara in the buzzed-about Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, about an escaped Texas con who risks everything to see his wife and the young daughter he’s never met. The next day the sun shone brilliantly, and the bashful Mara sweetly brushed the lint off Affleck’s jacket before the pair posed in front of one of the town’s grandest hotels.

Sharon Stone

at the Hotel Du Cap-eden-roc

It’s been 21 years since she made even French jaws drop at Basic Instinct‘s Cannes premiere, but Stone (in Roberto Cavalli) still had je ne sais quoi to spare at the 20th-anniversary party for jeweler de Grisogono. “Sharon Stone was one of the first stars to wear my jewelry at Cannes,” said company founder Fawaz Gruosi, who greeted her (above). Stone then mingled with guests including old pal Leonardo DiCaprio, who brought his mother to the party.

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