Cannes: Matthew McConaughey Responds to 'The Sea of Trees' Boos

Gus Van Sant's latest got a harsh reception following Friday's press screening.

For a while, it looked like the savaging The Sea of Trees received after its press screening on Friday would be the elephant in the room at Saturday’s press conference.

The assembled journalists tip-toed carefully around the subject, sometimes avoiding it entirely and occasionally offering the mild suggestion that perhaps the film wasn’t among Gus Van Sant’s finest, but without ever going in for the kill. As if expecting the issue to arise, the director, plus stars Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts, appeared somewhat subdued, with McConaughey even putting up a rather defensive, unsmiling front to generally respectful questions.

And then, just past the 30-minute mark, it landed. Preempting the question with the classic "I really loved the film; however a lot of colleagues disagreed with me" get-out clause, one reporter asked Van Sant and McConaughey  to comment on the bad reception.

"Anyone has as much right to boo as they do to ovate," said McConaughey, before the mic was quickly moved on by the moderator. But Van Sant was pressed to answer, and his response was a little more rambling.

"I read a review this morning, and it was one of those reviews, it was very definitive. I was imagining everyone was the same person as the one writing the review, and I thought, now I know where we stand," he said.  

He continued: "I remember there was always a story after Elephant screened, there were fisticuffs, fighting over whether it was good or bad, actually punching. And that was at Cannes as well. Who knows, day by day, whether the screening was today or yesterday, whether it makes a difference. I’m not sure at the end of a particularly screening, I don’t know."

"Ovate," as it happens, is an adjective that means "egg-shaped," so perhaps Van Sant's answers did actually make more sense.

The competition film has its red carpet premiere Saturday night.