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Venice Film Festival rules allowed its jury to honor the director and two stars of The Master with awards on Saturday — but not if the film was given the top prize, jury president Michael Mann told The Hollywood Reporter.
In a phone interview from Venice, where the American filmmaker and an 8-person jury announced their picks Saturday, Mann said they worked within the system to figure out how to best reward Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master and Korean director Kim Ki-duk‘s Pieta, which took the top Golden Lion award.
“The rules are very specific,” Mann said. “A film may only win one award. The exception is actors. A film could win for actor and one of the other awards, but a film can’t win for actor and Golden Lion.”
So the jury decided to give Anderson the Silver Lion award for directing and to split the acting award between co-stars Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The joint acting nod was possible because of another quirk of the Venice rules that allows acting honors to be shared. Thus the jury was able to essentially give The Master three awards, though it meant the film would not be handed the top honor.
“[The Master] was awarded best director because we really thought Paul Thomas Anderson’s directing was fantastic,” Mann said. “And it allowed us to award the actors. Nobody else could have played these roles. It’s a three-handed triumph.”
Mann said the jury also really loved Pieta. But he declined to comment on the specifics of the jury deliberations except to praise his colleagues. THR reported earlier Saturday that The Master filmmakers were informed Friday night by Venice staff that the jury had initially intended to award it the top prize but that it would no longer receive the honor due to festival rules. A call to Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera was not returned.
This isn’t the first time the quirks of the festival rules have garnered attention at Venice. In 2008, the jury gave the Golden Lion to Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler amid reports that it also wanted to honor Mickey Rourke as best actor, a prize that instead went to Italy’s Silvio Orlando for his work in Giovanna’s Father.
The Venice awards are important not just because the annual event is the world’s oldest film festival and attracts a jury of such top film figures as Mann (Heat, Public Enemies). The awards, coming at the start of Hollywood’s awards season, are seen as an early Academy Awards predictor (though in past years, the Venice jury has selected some odd films that don’t go the distance to Oscar night.)
For his part, Anderson was gracious toward the Venice jury at a press conference for The Master on Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival.”I’m thrilled with whatever they want to hand over,” Anderson said. “I heard the scuttlebutt recently, but I’m thrilled with whatever we got.”
Harvey Weinstein, leader of The Master distributor The Weinstein Co., also said the Venice situation was a positive development for the film. “No, no, it’s great,” he told the TIFF media. “We think it’s better.”
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