Will Smith joins Pedro Almodóvar’s star-studded Cannes jury
Paris — US actor Will Smith, one of the most bankable stars in the world, is to sit on the jury of the Cannes Film Festival next month, its organisers said on Tuesday. The former hip-hop star, who made his name in the teen TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, will decide the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, with a nine-member jury that includes fellow Hollywood star Jessica Chastain and the Chinese X-Men franchise actress, Fan Bingbing.
Having missed out twice on an Oscar despite being one of the favourites in 2001 for his portrayal of the boxer Muhammad Ali in the film Ali, the Cannes call is another remarkable twist in the story of a rapper who has become one of Hollywood’s key players. With such big stars on Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar’s jury, it risks rivaling the main competition for glamour, where Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Isabelle Huppert top the bill.
Other big names on the jury include the Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, best known for La Grande Bellezza and his hit TV series starring Jude Law, The Young Pope. German filmmaker Maren Ade, who many critics felt should have won the top prize last year for her comedy Toni Erdmann, was also tapped alongside cult Korean director Park Chan-wook.
Almodóvar, who won the festival’s best director prize in 1999 for All About My Mother and best screenplay seven years later for Volver, was named jury president in January.
Festival boss Thierry Frémaux revealed that Chastain would serve on the official competition jury during an interview with French radio earlier this month.
French actor-director Agnès Jaoui and Lebanese-born composer Gabriel Yared, who won an Oscar for his score of the The English Patient, complete the jury line-up.
They will have to decide between 18 competing films that include Sofia Coppola’s American Civil War thriller The Beguiled, where Colin Farrell plays a soldier who seduces all the women around him, including Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning.
Joaquin Phoenix returns in You Were Never Really Here as a war veteran who tries to save women from sex-trafficking, while Jake Gyllenhaal makes his Cannes debut in the Netflix-backed creature feature Okja from South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho.
The Cannes film festival — which is celebrating its 70th year — is regarded as the most prestigious in the world. Frémaux said that for such a big anniversary he wanted "to include people who were part of the history of the festival, who had been discovered by it, and who wanted to be with us". He said Chastain, in particular, had been "literally discovered by the festival in [Terrence Malick’s 2011 film] The Tree of Life".
The festival runs from May 17 to 28.