On the drizzly red carpet outside Cannes’ black-tie opening night party, red-suited attendants held umbrellas over celebrities’ heads as they made their way into the packed ballrooms of the Hotel Majestic. Inside, by a heaping dessert table, Benicio del Toro chatted in a corner with Gael Garcia Bernal, Tim Burton told us the Cannes experience had been “a strange trip” already, and a conspicuous scrum of tuxedo-ed bystanders pretended to not be staring at Kate Beckinsale, Croisette-glamorous in a short gold dress and a sweeping updo. We spoke with the Cannes competition jury member about her approach to judging, and she recalled her first time at Cannes, when she “wore steel-toe-capped Dr. Martens on the red carpet” and just hoped she “didn’t have stains” on her clothes.
Is there a certain type of film you’re hoping to promote here at Cannes?
What’s been very nice from the beginning is that Tim’s been very clear that none of us are going in with an agenda. We’re not looking for a political film, necessarily — or anything. We’re all looking forward to going in and seeing what it is. That’s what’s nice about the group — it’s only been two days, but so far nobody seems to have a really strong agenda. Everyone’s waiting to be surprised and moved.
What are you going to do? Take notes?
I arrived late because of the whole volcano thing, missed the inaugural dinner and all that. And I just thought, “Oh shit, everyone’s going to have done their homework but me. I was going to ask that: Are we supposed to take notes or is that going to piss people off when they look over and see me writing? I think I probably will. It’s a lot of films: two a day.
Did you feel you had to cram?
Well, yeah! I made sure I was familiar with the directors and their previous work. I didn’t want to go in as a complete neophyte.
Favorite memories from Cannes?
I’ve been here twice before. The first time I came was like the most shocking experience. I was eighteen and I’d just done Much Ado About Nothing and my agent didn’t tell me I could bring a friend or anything. So I was alone and I think I wore steel-toe-capped Dr. Martens on the red carpet! I had no idea. We didn’t have [the same support] in England. We didn’t have makeup and hair people. You just sort of showed up and hoped you didn’t have stains on you. And I remember going up the red carpet into the theater and thinking: God, it’s like being at a rock concert! So it’s nice to come back elderly, having been through the fire a bit.
You’re the old veteran now.
Well, so far no Vietnam flashbacks, thankfully.
And what do you have in the works now?
I’m doing a film with Karen Moncrieff, who did the Dead Girl and Blue Car. It’s called The Trials of Cate McCullough, and I play a lawyer who has to take on a case for a girl who’s clearly guilty—and then she finds out that she isn’t guilty and, you know … one of those. But it’s really well written. And I’m talking about doing a film in Ireland this summer [called On Finaghy Road].
About working with a female director — there aren’t any in competition at Cannes…
Yes, but it looks like I’ll be working with two this year. It’s the Kathryn Bigelow year!
Do you feel like things are changing?
Someone asked at the press conference about why are there no female directors and I don’t know. I’ve only ever worked with one — but hopefully this year it will make three. I wish there were more. It’s important to have a female sensibility in the movies.