The competition portion of the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival began in earnest tonight as the fest opened with the World Premiere of Wes Anderson’s new comedy, Moonrise Kingdom. And the results certainly pleased Focus Features chief James Shamus, who assessed the evening for me at the film’s swinging late night afterparty at Carlton Beach (which started after the usual opening night formal dinner). The movie received a 5-minute standing ovation that in fact brought co-star Bill Murray to visible tears in the audience. Of course every film gets some kind of ovation from these twice-a-night opening crowds. But there seemed to be genuine enthusiasm for Anderson who has never brought a film to Cannes. “I contacted [Fest director] Thierry Fremaux and really fought hard for the opening night slot because I believed in this film,” Schamus told me. It is somewhat unusual for the opening nighter to be in competition also. (Schamus said he thought it was maybe only the second or third time in the last couple of decades.) “Wes is also an auteur so I thought it would be only natural that his film would compete,” Schamus told me. Many of the opening nighters I spoke to felt it was worthy of a prize.
Anderson’s film is the first of 22 which the Cannes jury (headed by Italian director Nanni Moretti) will see over the next 12 days. Today, virtually the entire Moonrise Kingdom cast (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, and tweens Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) met the press. “These were so many people I wanted to work with for so long. I like to think of movies I do as a bit like a theatre company,” Anderson said. Typical of the camraderie felt by Anderson casts, “It’s clearly a family,” said Swinton. “Wes has made it feel as if we were all invited to a wedding. It was quite an adventure.”
Murray has been in every Wes Anderson film and joked he doesn’t get work except for Anderson movies. “It just gets better every time. Look, he even has Bruce Willis, a major movie star in this. He could have gone for the Muscles From Brussels but it wouldn’t have been the same,” said Murray. “Sometimes you work with directors you never see again or never want to see again. But these are art films. We work for very little money. All we got was this trip to Cannes,” he noted.
Norton said he always wanted to be part of a troupe of actors like this and compared it to Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre. “It turned out it was kind of like summer camp. It was a completely delightful experience. We did our own hair and makeup and costumes and there were no trailers. It was everything you dream about when you were a kid.”
Because of the screening and formal dinner, the Moonrise Kingdom crowd didn’t start showing in force at the Carlton after-party until past midnight. Fremaux told me he was very pleased with the way his opening night choice was received by the crowd. Young co-star and newcomer Kara Hayward said she was thrilled to be there and loved reaction to the movie, but was heading off to bed when I caught up with her at 12:30 AM. Her equally young co-star Jared Gilman was still partying until after 1 AM. (After all, this is Cannes and age doesn’t matter.) Their older co-stars were also feeling no pain as Bill, Tilda, Wes, and others celebrated the film’s fest success.
Also on hand was Michel Hazanaivicius, the Oscar winning director of The Artist which got its launch on the Croisette in 2011. “It’s hard to believe it has only been one year, but I am very happy to be back in a very different way,” Hazanavicius told me as he entered. Another Oscar nominee, The Help’s producer Brunson Green, was also working the room and told me he was in Cannes taking meetings on several new projects. He said he was particularly impressed with Hayward and thinks she has a real future.
This year’s Cannes jury members — Ewan McGregor, Alexander Payne, Diane Kruger, Jean-Paul Gautier, Emmanuelle Devos, Hiam Abbass and directors Andrea Arnold, Raoul Peck, and Moretti) met the press today and seemed eager to get started. “I feel very stimulated with this jury. They come with an open mind,” said Moretti who was in the competition just a year ago and is a past Palme d’Or winner for The Son’s Room. He plans to bring the jury together every other day to discuss the films they are seeing. When asked about Cannes vs Oscars, McGregor responded, “I am not going to compare it with the Oscars. That’s a whole different ballgame. But I believe Cannes can be a huge springboard for films needing to be noticed. It would be far more difficult if it weren’t for events like this.” Two-time Oscar winner Payne had this to say about the film competing: “On the one hand it is completely ridiculous to have a competiton. On the other hand you have to approach it with a sense of fun. The selection of films with Oscars and the Cannes slate is the most important thing. It is not the actual winners.”