Even before the 2019 Cannes Film Festival began today, there was controversy—comme toujours. Last month, the news that French actor Alain Delon would receive an honorary Palme d’Or was met with immediate protests from women’s rights activists because of Delon’s history of misogynistic and homophobic comments as well as domestic violence accusations, which the 83-year-old screen legend has denied.
At the opening press conference on Monday, Theirry Frémaux, artistic director of the festival, addressed the decision directly and dismissed any criticism. “We’re not giving the Nobel Peace Prize to Alain Delon,” Frémaux said. “We’re giving him the honorary Palme D’Or for his career as an actor.” He continued, “Nowadays it’s difficult to give awards, to honor someone, because the political police immediately appear. Alain Delon is not perfect. I’m not perfect.”
What is always pretty flawless at Cannes, of course, are the legion of celebrities who come to the French Riviera for one of the most important film festivals of the year. The opening night movie—the zombie comedy The Dead Don’t Die by beloved Cannes auteur Jim Jarmusch—features one of the most eclectic casts ever to walk the red carpet, including Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Selena Gomez, and Tom Waits.
Other celebrities who came out for the opening ceremony include director Alejandro González Iñárritu, president of the jury overseeing the main competition; jury member Elle Fanning (who wore a Gucci gown with Chopard diamonds); Julianne Moore (in an emerald Dior gown with matching emerald jewels by Chopard); Alessandra Ambrosio (in a diaphanous Ralph & Russo gown with Bouchon jewels and René Caovilla shoes); and Eva Longoria (who wore a custom Alberta Ferretti gown).
In addition to Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die, the pre-festival favorite for the Palme d’Or is Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood, which will have its three stars—Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie—lighting up the red carpet. The supporting cast isn’t too shabby either, including Al Pacino, Lena Dunham, Damian Lewis and the late Luke Perry.
Set in 1969 Los Angeles, the film stars DiCaprio as Rick Dalton, an actor trying to transition from television to movies, while Pitt plays his stunt double and best friend. Robbie portrays Dalton’s neighbor, actress Sharon Tate, who was married to director Roman Polanski at the time and was murdered in her home that summer by followers of Charles Manson.
Once Upon a Time will premiere 25 years after Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and despite that omen the movie is by no means a lock for the award. Also in competition is Pain and Glory, starring Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, and directed by Cannes favorite Pedro Almodóvar. And Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, about an Austrian who refuses to fight for the Third Reich during World War II, is expected to generate lots of buzz on the famed Croisette.