Cannes Pic Speculation Building; Penn, Allen, Almodovar, Refn & What About Spielberg?

The Cannes Film Festival begins in a little less than two months, and that means speculation is beginning to build around the art house and Hollywood titles that could make the fabled march up the red carpet in May. It’s still early days with no titles confirmed — many hopefuls haven’t even screened for the selection committee yet — but that isn’t stopping speculative trade reports. So here we go, with the admonition that William Goldman’s classic line applies here. But, speaking to industry sources and Cannes-watchers, there are a series of recognizable names we’ve heard bandied about multiple times as possibilities including Almodovar, Dardenne, Dolan, Allen, Villeneuve, Winding Refn — and Spielberg?

BFGSpielberg’s The BFG is thought to be under consideration for a festival slot, and potentially the opening. It’s been mentioned to us a number of times, and with an international rollout beginning in June, the timing looks right. There’s also something charming in the idea that Spielberg, who has only been in Official Selection with three new films dating back to 1974, would come back with The BFG. Starring newly minted Oscar-winner Mark Rylance, the fantasy adventure was the last film penned by the late Melissa Mathison. Her best-known collaboration with Spielberg, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, had its world premiere in Cannes 34 years ago. Spielberg was most recently in Cannes as jury president in 2013. (George Miller is president of the jury this time, back for a victory lap after his Mad Max: Fury Road debuted at the Palais last year and went on to win six Oscars.)

Watchers also wonder if Sean Penn’s Africa-set drama The Last Face, with Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem, is an opening possibility. While the fest has often opted for frothier fare on opening night, it has been known to go for drama, too. Last year the spot went to Emmanuelle Bercot’s well-received Standing Tall in what was nevertheless considered a sort of curious choice given the lack of international star power.

Money MonsterCannes familiars will recall that Pixar’s Up opened the proceedings to great acclaim in 2009. The studio returned last year for the mid-fest debut of Inside Out; essentially the best-reviewed film of the two weeks. Pixar is expected to sit this year out as scuttlebutt says Finding Dory won’t be charting a course for the Riviera. Despite speculation, and an appropriate release date, Illumination’s The Secret Life Of Pets is believed not to have been submitted. Oliver Stone’s Snowden is likewise not expected. It recently changed release dates to later in the fall and we hear it won’t leak in Cannes. Martin Scorsese’s Silence is likely whispering into Venice or one of the other fall festivals. The Jodie Foster-directed Money Monster with George Clooney and Julia Roberts was also thought to be a possibility to open in Cannes, although it now looks as though it’s destined for an out of competition berth on a subsequent night.

While the opening night and some special showcase screenings are traditionally announced in March and April, the nuts and bolts of the official selection really are not 100% certain until fest chief Thierry Frémaux unveils his picks in mid-April. Indeed, most of the sources we’ve spoken with say they either haven’t screened their films yet for the committee or are waiting to hear the verdict. The reps of French films in particular are only notified beginning around 11 PM the night before the official announcement.

Still, there are many “usual suspects” — a term unappreciated by Frémaux — who have films thought to be ready. They include the Dardenne brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc with La Fille Inconnue, starring Adèle Hanael and Jérémie Renier. Also highly expected is Pedro Almodovar’s mother-daughter story Julieta. The film releases in Spain in April, but that is on par for Almodovar whose movies generally go out at home before they hit Cannes (a rule of the fest allows films into competition if they have not released anywhere else, save their country of origin). Sony Pictures Classics has domestic. Another Cannes staple, Woody Allen, could also turn up with his latest still-untitled pic with Steve Carell and others.

Cannes habitué Nicolas Winding Refn is tipped to debut his L.A.-set Neon Demon; possibly as a Midnight screening. The horror pic stars Elle Fanning and Abbey Lee and is anticipated via Amazon later this year. Previous Jury Prize winner Xavier Dolan is likely to turn up with the French-language It’s Only The End Of The World starring Léa Seydoux, Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel. Signs would also point to French director Olivier Assayas’ English-language Personal Shopper with Kristen Stewart who has cult-status in France — and not just for the Twilight franchise; she’s the only American ever to win a Best Supporting Actress César Award. That came to her in 2015 for her work in Assayas’ 2014 Cannes title Clouds Of Sils Maria.

In other possibilities, Denis Villeneuve was in competition with Sicario last year and could repeat with Story Of Your Life. That Amy Adams-Jeremy Renner sci-fi drama was the subject of a record-setting $20M deal with Paramount at the start of Cannes in 2014.

Also starring Adams, and Villeneuve regular collaborator Jake Gyllenhaal, is Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals which Focus is releasing but doesn’t yet have a date.

We hear Andrea Arnold’s American Honey has a shot with Shia LaBeouf starring. Conversely, Ben Wheatley and the Brie Larson-led Free Fire are more likely eyeing the fall. We’ve also heard that Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans will not be presented. Jeff Nichols’ Loving was just pegged to a November domestic release, potentially taking it out of the running, and Pathé’s Florence Foster Jenkins with Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant is bypassing, we’re told.

The Birth of a NationElsewhere, Nate Parker’s The Birth Of A Nation may pick up the Un Certain Regard slot that’s reserved each year for a Sundance title, while Tran Anh Hung’s Eternity and its starry cast of Mélanie Laurent, Audrey Tautou and Bérénice Bejo is considered a possibility in a sidebar.

Other titles to keep an eye on include Paul Verhoeven’s Elle and Romanian helmer Cristian Mungiu’s drama Family Photos.

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