Berlinale loses two jurors
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UPDATED 6:55 p.m. CET Feb. 7
BERLIN -- The Berlin International Film Festival competition jury was hit by two late cancellations Thursday, when French actress Sandrine Bonnaire and Danish director Susanne Bier said they were forced to pull out.
Festival chief Dieter Kosslick announced the no-shows at a morning news conference for the remaining panel members, explaining that Bonnaire's withdrawal was for "very personal reasons" and that Bier had commitments to her next film that she couldn't duck out of.
"Unfortunately, we lost these two very prestigious jury members, but we thought we could work with the six remaining members. You can't always get what you want," said Kosslick, in a nod toward Thursday's appearance by the Rolling Stones at the Berlinale.
Despite the official explanations, there was a whiff of mystery surrounding the double pullout, especially given that the jury lineup was announced only eight days ago.
The festival office said Bier was leaving for the U.S. immediately in relation to her next film.
"An unforeseen occurrence demanded my immediate professional presence elsewhere," Bier said in a statement. "For that reason, I was unfortunately not able to perform the task of a jury member. I am very sad about this."
Bier is slated to direct "Lost for Words" for Working Title. The film centers on a movie star lothario who finds himself falling in love with a beautiful Chinese actress and her female translator. The project has not been cast and has a March start date. Working Title could not be reached for comment.
For her part, Bonnaire said: "For me it was a great honor to have been appointed to the Berlinale jury, and I was looking forward to enjoying the 10-day cinematic journey. However, for family reasons, I've been forced to cancel and ask everyone involved for their understanding."
French industry insiders said it had been known for a few days that Bonnaire was going to drop out, and there were suggestions that she is exhausted after her recent heavy shoot schedule. Other insiders simply confirmed the "family problem" story.
Bonnaire is expected to be in Berlin on Monday for the screening of "Elle s'appelle Sabine" (Her Name is Sabine), a documentary about her autistic sister that the Gallic actress wrote and directed. She also is expected to do press interviews for the film the next day and attend her scheduled lecture on acting techniques Wednesday as part of the Berlinale Talent Campus.
"An accident happened. We have to live with it. There was no question of replacing them," jury president Costa-Gavras told the news conference, flanked by surviving jurors including Oscar-winning editor and sound designer Walter Murch, Russian producer Alexander Rodnyansky, German actress Diane Kruger and German production designer Uli Hanisch.
Taiwanese actress Shu Qi was the focus of much of the attention during the conference. Asked whether she would be taking on Bai Ling's mantle as this year's "sexy highlight" — in reference to the Chinese actress' memorably revealing red carpet appearances here in 2005 — Shu replied: "I'm here to work as a member of the jury. It's serious work that one must do conscientiously."