The Pink Panthers' Hollywood-Style Heists

Interview

Friday, August 02, 2013

On July 28, 2013, an armed man, wearing a bandana and a hat, walked into the Carlton InterContintental, snatched $136 million worth in jewels, and fled on foot. The whole thing lasted about a minute and not a shot was fired. It sounds like a movie, and the Carlton is the glamorous hotel in glamorous Cannes, France, where Hitchcock filmed scenes from To Catch a Thief. Lately a criminal ring in Europe has been making amazing jewel thefts from the playbook of classic heist movies, right down to the gang’s name: the Pink Panthers. Interpol estimates that the crew of thieves, mainly from Serbia, has stolen over $400 million in jewels over the past 15 years.

The most recent theft — called the heist of the century — might not be the work of the Pink Panthers, but it has many of their hallmarks, and perhaps it is not a coincidence that three days earlier, the Panthers busted one of their members out of a Swiss prison, something they’ve done several times before.

The new documentary Smash & Grab tells the story of these legendary jewel thieves through interviews with several at-large members of the Pink Panthers and some of the detectives who spend their days chasing them. “You have the action and the traditional Hollywood glamour of that Oceans 11-type thing,” director Havana Marking tells Kurt Andersen. “But actually, what you get to in the film, and what I really understood in these interviews, they’re not happy people. They’re paranoid. They’re depressed. But maybe Hollywood might be interested in that because it’s a new take.”

Not surprisingly, Marking says that she’s already in talks to sell the rights to her documentary. One can only hope that another filmmaker will find a way to include Inspector Clouseau.

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