Marion Cotillard is a beloved fixture at the Cannes Film Festival. The Oscar-winning French actress first walked the red carpet outside the Palais in the year 2000 as one of French cinema’s freshest new talents. Her first film to screen as part of the official lineup came in 2011 with Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, and over the decade since, she’s had 11 films screen there.
Cotillard was back on the Croisette this summer for her latest competition entry, Leos Carax’s experimental musical Annette, which opened the festival. In the film — which releases on Amazon Prime Video Friday — she plays a world-famous opera singer who is in a passionate relationship with an unpredictable stand-up comedian, played by Adam Driver. Their lives get turned upside down after the birth of their first child, a baby girl named Annette who is best described as, well, a doll.
“It’s always a great pleasure for me to go to Cannes, a festival I love,” Cotillard told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday night at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, host of the film’s U.S. premiere. “It’s always an event for me and this time was very special because Cannes didn’t happen last year [due to the COVID-19 pandemic].”
The year off, combined with shuttered cinemas, was a devastating blow to cinephiles so the honor of raising the curtain in Cannes to welcome everyone back was a “very special” moment for Cotillard and the cast, which also includes Simon Helberg and young actress Devyn McDowell. “I was so happy to be there and to be in a movie theater,” she noted. “And to show this very special movie to an audience, so passionate. It was something that I will never forget.”
The Palais audience responded with an extended standing ovation that far exceeded the typical four-minute applause. During the reception, Carax, rarely without a cigarette in hand, lit up a cigarette inside the theater and handed it to Driver. The jury responded by awarding Carax the best director prize at the end of the festival.
“Leos smokes a lot and he had to light a cigarette,” Cotillard recalled of the moment. “Adam, I can see that he’s kind of nervous in that kind of environment, and I thought it was so beautiful that they would share this thing that you can hang on to. It was very moving, very, very moving.”
Speaking of extended applause, Wednesday night’s premiere came after an electric 30-minute concert by Sparks, aka brothers Ron and Russel Mael. The pair dreamed up the story and the songs for Annette and collaborated with Carax in bringing the project to life over the course of a decade. Their set, performed on a stage on the cemetery grounds, featured a handful of the songs from the film, including “So May We Start,” “We Love Each Other So Much” and “You Used to Laugh.” The audience responded with a rousing standing ovation.
“It’s so strange,” Russell Mael told THR on the carpet about all the Sparks love they’ve been fielding as of late, thanks to Annette and the Edgar Wright documentary about their band. “It’s almost surreal because we have 25 albums out and we’ve had other film projects in the past that haven’t seen the light of day. For all of this to come together at one time, it’s very bizarre. We are not taking it for granted in the slightest.”
Taking in the scene at the premiere were guests including Natasha Lyonne, Beck, Maria Bakalova, Janicza Bravo, Haley Lu Richardson, Jaeden Martell, Danielle Macdonald, Anna Camp, Fortune Feimster, Ashley Bell, Amazon Studios co-head of movies Matt Newman and Prime Video’s Scott Foundas.
Star Helberg, who attended with wife Jocelyn, also was moved like Cotillard by the Cannes reception. “My favorite moment was sitting in [the Palais], in the center, and seeing the movie with a full house and these incredible people all around us,” said the actor, whose turn as The Conductor has been praised by critics. “During the pandemic, I think we all had these moments of wondering how life would ever continue and maybe feeling like it was never going to happen. To experience the premiere in Cannes was such a great cathartic moment for me.”
Even if it was tough to not peek at his watch. “They put so much weight on the applause and how long it is,” he said, before joking about the smokes. “I didn’t want to time it but I did feel a little bit like, is this good? It went on for so long that people smoked multiple cigarettes. I think that’s good. But I wasn’t offered a cigarette — I don’t know why.”