The Indian icon, known at home as Big B, may seem like an odd choice for a “to watch” piece, but the series of vignettes I’m doing this week is about keeping an eye on interesting people here in Cannes, not solely newcomers. And, Amitabh Bachchan, who has made more than 180 films at home, has only just made his Hollywood debut with a cameo in Baz Luhrmann’s Cannes opening night film The Great Gatsby. Bachchan has said that the short scene in which he appears with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire was a “friendly gesture” towards Lurhmann whom he had met a few years back. He also says he did not take any compensation: “What commerce can one consider for work for a single day!” he recently wrote on the blog he updates religiously. Luhrmann called him “one of the best actors” he’s ever worked with at the Gatsby press conference yesterday. (He also got a shoutout during a scene on Fox’s New Girl last week.) Bachchan has said he would consider other Hollywood roles if they were offered. Here in Cannes, he also stars in a section of Bombay Talkies, which is screening in honor of the 100th anniversary of Hindi cinema. An Indian producer says, “We’ve grown up watching his versatility and there’s nothing he cannot do. An absolute all-rounder. He’s our Al Pacino, Daniel Day-Lewis and Robin Williams all rolled into one.”
Related: Cannes: Producers To Watch
Fan Bingbing is a huge star in her native China whose career is ramping up Stateside. The actress’ credits closer to home include Shaolin, Buddha Mountain, My Way, Double Exposure and box office smash Lost In Thailand. Upcoming she’s got F… I’m Pregnant by China/U.S. director Eva Jin, The Lady In The Portrait, The Moon & The Sun and Empress Wu Ze Tian. Meanwhile, she’s got a small role in the Chinese version of Iron Man 3 and was tapped by Bryan Singer to play Blink in X-Men: Days Of Future Past which is shooting in Canada. She’s in Cannes this week to pump up her action comedy project with Jackie Chan, Skiptrace. Producer Esmond Ren says Bingbing “has aspirations and wants to be seen in U.S. movies… We love her and she has been with our company on many other projects.” Ren says her English “is improving and I’m sure that after working on X-Men, it will be even better.” She’s repped by WME.
Related: Cannes: Directors To Watch
The Will Forte who appears in Alexander Payne’s Competition title Nebraska will look a lot different than the Will Forte who spent most of his time on 30 Rock as Jenna Maroney’s doppelganger in drag. The 30 Rock, SNL and MacGruber star took on a major departure with the father and son road-trip movie and “still kind of can’t believe it” himself. When he read the script and learned Payne was accepting submission tapes, Forte decided “what the heck.” He never thought it would work, but four months later he got a call to read in person. Payne himself has said, “Never in a million years would I have thought of him. But I believed him in his audition. And there’s an appealing familiarity about him.” Forte says the move was “definitely not a conscious decision to go into drama… I love doing comedy movies and comedy shows. If I read something and I think it’s fun and interesting, I’ll give it a shot.” The actual filming was “certainly intimidating, but not because of anything anybody else did.” Payne “is such a calming presence” and “Bruce (Dern) couldn’t have been more patient with me.” This will be his first Cannes (“I’m just going to follow the other guys around and photobomb pictures”) and is also an opportunity to present another side of him to an audience that may not be so familiar with his comedy roles. “I’m really happy this is going to be their first impression,” he laughs. But he also admits he’s going to “miss shaving my legs” now that 30 Rock is over. He’s repped by UTA and managed by Mosaic.
French actress Léa Seydoux has had roles in a handful of Hollywood movies including Inglourious Basterds, Robin Hood, Midnight In Paris and the last Mission: Impossible. Three of those films debuted in Cannes and here this week she stars in two new movies: lesbian awakening story Blue Is The Warmest Color by Abdellatif Kechiche, which is in Competition, and Rebecca Zlotowski’s love story Grand Central, which is in Un Certain Regard. An exec close to the latter calls it “one of her most amazing parts.” The same person comments, “She is the hot up-and-comer. She’s young, talented and sexy. She’s a dream.” Another exec tells me, “She’s taken risks. She’s difficult to class in a genre of actresses. She’s unpredictable, and it’s great.” Next up, Seydoux plays Loulou de la Falaise in Bertrand Bonello’s Yves Saint Laurent and she’s also in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. She’s repped by CAA.
The 22-year-old French actress Marine Vacth stars in her third film with François Ozon’s Competition title Young & Beautiful. The coming-of-age story of a 17-year-old girl told over four seasons and four songs generated a lot of buzz ahead of its selection in Cannes and the noise has been growing. That’s been helped by the film’s trailer in which Vacth’s character describes why she enjoys being a prostitute. Ozon is notorious for his strong work with women including Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier and Catherine Deneuve. Vacth is a former model who tells me she just kind of fell into acting, but working with Ozon was a serious venture for her where “I wanted to be invested in a project, not just as a curiosity.” Although she is timid in speaking with the press, she says she’s not overly daunted by coming to Cannes. She finds it “sublime to be in the world’s biggest festival and to have the opportunity to show a project to movie lovers and press from all over the world.” For her next act, Vacth doesn’t have anything firmed up, but it may not be too long in the coming. A person who saw the film this afternoon raved to me, “Oh. My. God. The star this girl is!”