When it was first announced that Will Smith would be a member of the Cannes jury, most people reacted by pointing out that Will’s never had a film at Cannes. He’s stunted a movie in Cannes (Shark Tale) but his films have never been part of the festival. He is, however, one of the most popular movie stars in the world. And yesterday, on the first day of the 70th Cannes Film Festival, Will Smith was the major highlight. And the headlines are almost all the same.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Will Smith Is Having More Fun Than Anyone In Cannes. Blavity said that Will Smith Is Living His Best Life At Cannes 2017. And Vulture, obviously my favourite, declared that Will Smith Is Already Having The Time Of His Life At Cannes. That article was written by Jada Yuan who also recently wrote the two excellent Vulture profiles on Elisabeth Moss and Aziz Ansari. Jada noted that Will made this jury presser the most entertaining she’s attended in a long time. Read Jada Yuan’s report about Will at the jury press conference yesterday and you’ll feel like you were there in that you won’t be able to not smile. You can’t not smile. Because of how familiar we are with Will and his charisma. You can totally picture him joking around with the media, with the festival staff, even with the security guards. When he’s asked about his festival wardrobe, you can hear him telling reporters that he originally wanted to go full “South of France, Cannes sexy”, blow past Kirsten Dunst’s 28 outfits and bring his number to 32… until the heat came on. And then there’s this, Will subtly addressing those who might doubt his qualifications as a juror. This is excellent:
“I grew up in West Philadelphia — yes, born and raised, yes, thank you. West Philadelphia is a long way from the Cannes Film Festival, and the Cannes Film Festival is the ultimate prestige in cinema. So I’m excited to be here, and, more than anything, learn. When this level of artist comes together you actually never know what will happen and what will be created just in the conversations and the interactions. I’m actually here very selfishly.”
That’s not to say Will can’t be assertive though. As you may have heard, one of the most contentious issues coming out of Cannes is the Netflix situation. Jury president Pedro Almodovar read a prepared statement during the presser yesterday that seemed to support the festival’s decision going forward to not include films in competition if they don’t have a proper theatrical release. Will, however, perhaps given that he has a Netflix film coming out in December (Bright), spoke up to defend Netflix, its contribution to the artistic community and its impact on a new generation of cinephiles:
"I have a 16-year- old and an 18-year-old and a 24-year-old at home. They go to the movies twice a week, and they watch Netflix. There’s very little cross between going to the cinema and watching what they watch on Netflix." He added: "In my home, Netflix has had absolutely no effect on what they go to the movie theater to watch, go to the cinema to be humbled by certain images and stay home for others — no cross. In my home Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit — [they] watch films they otherwise wouldn’t have seen. It has broadened my children’s global cinematic comprehension."
That is excellent too. It’s not open warfare, he’s not saying the decision is stupid, he’s certainly not directly challenging his jury president, but he also can’t sell out his own partnership and manages to defend it without creating any additional tension. Later on, at the gala, Pedro fondly introduced Will as the last jury member, where he apparently received the loudest applause. This, of course, was after Will delighted photographers, fans, and other celebrities outside the Palais when he arrived. They’re in love with him over there. But it’s only day one. And Cannes will burn you out more than any other festival. Unless, of course, you’re the Fresh Prince… of Cannes (sorry! I had to!). If anyone can keep this up over 10 days, it’s him.
Yours in gossip,