My Cannes Moment: Joseph Kosinski, Warwick Thornton, Christian Mungiu, Paul Laverty and James Marsh on Their Best Festival Experiences

My Cannes Moment: Joseph Kosinski, Warwick Thornton, Christian Mungiu, Paul Laverty and James Marsh on Their Best Festival Experiences
May 2023

Five filmmakers recall their favorite, funniest and -- in one case -- most fraught moments on the Croisette.

Joseph Kosinski
The Top Gun: Maverick director on the epic gala -- including a flypast by the French airforce -- in 2022. This year he returns as the exec producer on BMW Films' The Calm featuring the all-electric BMW i7 and starring Uma Thurman and Pom Klementieff

The whole Cannes experience -- the photographers on both sides of the carpet and everyone screaming at you and being there with our whole cast and for us to be together, especially after the pandemic, because the movie was made before -- was just surreal.

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It was my first time in Cannes and it'll be something I'll never forget. And with the flyover, remember I had planes flying over my head for about two years before, so that wasn't the weird part. Planes flying over was something I was very used to, but it was very cool to see the French Air Force and the French colours.

And [the screening] was really special, because it started with the tribute to Tom and then he was awarded the Palme, and then we watched the movie and I sat next to him the whole time. So to watch his career, while sitting next to him was pretty surreal, then to watch the movie and have him punching me in the arm with excitement through the whole thing... it's something I will never, ever forget.

It was a once in a lifetime experience. So yeah, it'll be fun to kind of experience it in a different way this year.

Cristian Mungiu
The Romanian filmmaker on winning the Palme d'Or in 2007 for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

It was my first time in competition, so I was told I could either go on the first day or the last day. We decided to go for day one, thinking we'd smash them hard in the beginning and create an impression, even if everyone would forget the film two days later. But after two days, people were still talking about the film. I was asked to stay another day and another day. I could hear people talking about the film on the street, at parties. I gave interview after interview. We started hoping we might win something.

Then came the awards, and the festival asked me to stay on. At the ceremony, it started to look like we might win the Palme d'Or. I was so stressed! The stakes were so high, I got a terrible headache. When they said my name, I completely blanked out. I went onstage but I missed the whole moment -- I was just trying to focus, to say something intelligent and not behave like a monkey.

Looking back, it feels like it wasn't an accident. There is something about that film. Even today, it is remembered as being very fresh, that it changed the perspective at the time a little bit. That's the most difficult thing to do in cinema. You can make a good film but, especially the more experienced you become, the more you lose the innocence and freshness that you had at the beginning. I don't know if you can ever learn to touch that again. It's as much about a period in your life as anything else.

I'm happy the film has held up. You can read a lot of books about communism, but the feeling of living through it, the feeling that everybody's watching you -- that's more interesting for young people to experience than to just read about.

Paul Laverty
Ken Loach's longtime writer, at the festival for the 11th time this year with The Old Oak, reflects on his trip to Cannes in 2012

We were out there doing The Angels' Share (in 2012), and we had this wonderful little guy with us, Gary Maitland, who has been in a couple of our films - he was also in Sweet Sixteen.

But his real job is in the Glasgow Cleansing Department, [better known as] the Clenny. He's a bin man. In fact, there's a great photograph of him doing the bins with a bus going by behind him and it's got a big advert for The Angels' Share on it.

But we were in Cannes one night and the next day he was going back to work. And we were looking out over the water he gets a glass of Champagne and pulls it up and goes: "From Cannes to the Clenny." And he knocks it back.

From Cannes to the Clenny! That's the best quote I've ever heard.

Warwick Thornton
The Indigenous Australian director, back in Cannes this year with The New Boy, on winning the 2009 Camera d'Or for Samson & Delila

When I was a first-time director at Cannes, they literally rounded all of us newcomers up and put us in a room and they really drilled us on how important this opportunity was.

Because you can compete for the Palme d'Or 20 times, but you only get one shot at the Camera d'Or with your first film. So it really added more pressure to the pressure we were already feeling about being in Cannes with our first work, but it also made everything all the more exciting. And it created a great rapport among all of us new directors, because we were all in this together.

Coming back with The New Boy in Un Certain Regard this time, I don't have that crazy pressure anymore. I can just be a part of the conversation and I'm there to play. Now it's like, "Hi, everybody, look at this beautiful thing we made."

James Marsh
The director of The Theory of Everything and an Oscar winner for Man on Wire reflects on the emotionally rollercoaster ride that was his first trip to the festival (one that would, eventually, lead to his Academy Award).

I was here in 2005 with The King, in Un Certain Regard -- a very low-budget American film with Gael Garcia Bernal.

You get the call from Cannes and it's like wow, this wasn't even in your most extreme fantasy -- they're going to show your film in the official part of the festival. So you're in Cannes, you're at the premiere of your film and it's apparently a great success. I guess most of them are -- there's a sort of goodwill factor. You get a standing ovation. So it all adds up and you think this is like the best night of my life. I'm now a filmmaker.

And then the next morning I had to go somewhere to do press. And I approached the publicist who was shuffling these magazines behind her. She looked really nervous. So I read the reviews, and they're the worst reviews possible to write -- just awful, terrible, evil. I'm going from literally my greatest fantasy being made real to being destroyed... going from the pinnacle of achievement to the trough of despair and self loathing... and in a matter of hours.

I can't make any feature films. I can't do anything. So I'm forced to go back to documentaries and make Man On Wire. So there was a happy ending.