US film-maker Miller wins best director at Cannes

Bennett Miller scooped the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday for "Foxcatcher", a film showcasing another side to the acting skills of funny man Steve Carell.

US film-maker Miller wins best director at Cannes
Photo: AFP

Miller's movie — based on the real-life murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz by multi-millionaire John du Pont — has seen "The Office" star Carell hailed by critics.

The film, in which he plays the deranged, sinister du Pont, also stars Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as Mark and Dave Schultz, two wrestling-champion brothers.

"It's really something to be supported, and to have people who have faith in you, and to come out the other side," Miller told the audience at the festival hall in Cannes as he accepted his prize.

Speaking afterwards, he lauded Carell's courage in taking on the role.

"I wonder if it can really be communicated how courageous that is to show up knowing that the survivors of the family and the people who lived the story are going to be around set, and that the movie is going to be scrutinised," he told reporters.

Both Mark Schultz and Dave's widow Nancy came on set to help the actors and filmmakers during the shoot.

Carell said earlier this week that his first encounter with Nancy had been very awkward as he was decked out as his character du Pont when they met.

Miller also praised Tatum and Ruffalo, adding he never wanted to make a film without the latter, who "is an amazing actor" and "an amazing person."

"Foxcatcher" opens on Mark (Tatum), who has always lived in the shadow of his loving elder sibling Dave (Ruffalo).

So when du Pont asks him out-of-the-blue to move to his sprawling estate and help put together a wrestling team for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the insecure sportsman jumps at the chance.

Mark soon develops a father-son relationship with the erratic du Pont, who nevertheless turns on him and calls on his more confident brother to train the team instead.

Resentful at first, Mark eventually grows close to his brother again whilst du Pont becomes alienated from them, culminating in the tragic murder that made headlines in 1996 when the heir shot Dave Schultz.

The New York-born director has only made three feature films, but already he is a regular at international award ceremonies.

He directed his childhood friend Philip Seymour Hoffman to Oscar glory with "Capote", his 2005 biopic of author and playwright Truman Capote.

Hoffman also won a BAFTA and Golden Globe for his performance.

Then came "Moneyball", a 2011 biographical baseball drama which also got several award nominations.

At a press conference in Cannes on Monday, Miller choked up about Hoffman when a journalist asked about his ability to make actors disappear into roles, pointing to Carell and Hoffman's star turn as Capote.

"It makes me emotional. The last time I saw you, I was more emotional than I wanted to ever be in front of people," he said, before pausing and stumbling for words.

Miller took eight years to prepare "Foxcatcher", researching the story by meeting those who knew the two brothers, and said the film had only properly been finished two weeks before.

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Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid

The Cannes Film Festival has been rescheduled for July 6th to 17th - postponed by around two months due to the ongoing virus crisis, organisers said on Wednesday.

Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid
The 2018 Palme d'Or winner Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda posing for the cameras at the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual highlight for movie lovers in France. Photo: AFP

“As announced last autumn, the Festival de Cannes reserved the right to change its dates depending on how the global health situation developed,” they said in a statement.

“Initially scheduled from 11th to 22nd May 2021, the Festival will therefore now take place from Tuesday 6th to Saturday 17th July 2021.”

The festival was cancelled last year, while rival European events in Berlin and Venice went ahead under strict health restrictions.

The Berlin Film Festival, which usually kicks off in February, said last month it would run this year's edition in two stages, an online offering for industry professionals in March and a public event in June.

France has closed all cinemas, theatres and show rooms alongside cafés, bars and restaurants as part of its Covid-19 health measures and the government has pushed back their reopening date until further notice due to rising levels of viral spread across the country.

The Cannes festival normally attracts some 45,000 people with official accreditations, of whom around 4,500 are journalists.

It had only been cancelled once before, due to the outbreak of war in 1939.

Its Film Market, held alongside the main competition, is the industry's biggest marketplace for producers, distributors, buyers and programmers.

Last year, the festival still made an official selection of 56 films – including the latest offerings from Wes Anderson, Francois Ozon and Steve McQueen – allowing them to use the “Cannes official selection” label.