Berlin Jury President James Schamus: Philip Seymour Hoffman 'Will Be Here' in Spirit

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James Schamus

The jury, which also includes Christoph Waltz, Michel Gondry and James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli, among others, sidestepped the Woody Allen controversy in its first press conference.

BERLIN – Berlin Film Festival jury president James Schamus said Thursday that the spirit of late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was scheduled to attend the Berlinale, would pervade the festival.

"His death was pretty tough on everyone in the industry. But Philip Seymour Hoffman will be here," he said during the jury's opening press conference here. "He will be here. … A lot of his friends will be joining together [in Berlin] to remember him -- it is places like Berlin that provide a place to remember, mourn and to celebrate. No, no, he'll be here."

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Following the news of Hoffman's death on Sunday by what is believed to be a drug overdose (the initial autopsy was inconclusive), the Berlinale announced it would pay tribute with a special screening of Capote, which screened in the Berlin competition in 2009 and won the actor his sole Oscar.

Hoffman's death was addressed head-on by the Berlin jury, but the controversy surrounding another filmmaker, Woody Allen, was skillfully dodged. When asked, in reference to the sex abuse scandal surrounding Allen, if moral or ethical judgment will come into play for the jury, Schamus simply said: "I believe the moral and ethical decisions have already been made by the selection committee."

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Instead of scandal, the 2014 Berlin jury preferred to play it light on Thursday. French director Michel Gondry, who will unspool his new animated documentary Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? in Berlin's Panorama section, admitted it was too early to have any opinions on anything. "We've only seen one film so far," quipped Gondry, thrown by a journalist's question on the quality of Berlin's competition line up this year.

Actress Greta Gerwig, whose starring performance in Frances Ha was a highlight of last year's festival season, was quick to correct one hack who congratulated her on her Oscar nomination.

"I didn't get an Oscar nomination. I wish I did," said Gerwig. "But I am a Golden Globe nominee!"

Double Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, described by his Green Hornet director Gondry as having "too much talent," was asked how Berlin differs from the Cannes Film Festival. "The beach," said Waltz. "That's one of the differences. Berlin is a festival that perhaps, perhaps dares to go further into the unknown than Cannes. But the food is better in Cannes."

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Gondry said it was much easier "to be here, watching films" than to make them under the Hollywood studio system, as he did with Hornet. The Berlin festival is best-known for celebrating art house film, but Schamus – for once not sporting his signature bow tie – pointed to a passion for cinema across all genres and budgets.

"Whether it's James Bond movies or Bela Tarr movies, cinema is really a big family in that way," said Schamus. "A festival is really like a family. A family is a place where you get to really profoundly, at a molecular level, disagree with everybody you are having food with and wake up the next morning and still love each other."

Skyfall producer Barbara Broccoli, Danish actress Trine Dyrholm (In a Better World). Iranian filmmaker and painter Mitra Farahani and Hong Kong action star Tony Leung complete this year's Berlin jury.

The 64th Berlin International Film Festival runs Feb. 6-16.