Hollywood Flashback: Gerard Depardieu Starred With a Chimp in 1978 Cannes Pic 'Bye Bye Monkey'

Depardieu Bye Bye Monkey - Photofest - H 2018
Action Films/Photofest

Ahead of the actor's film 'To the Ends of the World' ('Les confins du monde') screening as a Directors' Fortnight selection at this year's fest, THR looks at his history with the French festival.

Gerard Depardieu, 69, who stars in Guillaume Nicloux's Directors' Fortnight selection To the Ends of the World (Les confins du monde), has a history with Cannes that dwarfs those of other attending actors.

In summer 1964, when he was a 15-year-old apprentice in a print shop in central France, he hitchhiked to Cannes for his first visit. In 1966, he went by train with two friends, and they found jobs as beach boys putting up umbrellas and lounge chairs at the Plage des Sports private club.

Though Premiere magazine printed in 1991 that Cannes was "a festival he once dismissed as being only for local hairdressers," Depardieu's films — IMDb lists him as having 233 acting credits — have been a fixture on the Croisette, both in the market and the fest itself. Arguably his most memorable was Bernardo Bertolucci's 317-minute epic 1900, which was shown out of competition in 1976. (That year's winning film was Taxi Driver, and Tennessee Williams was jury president.)

Though it's almost been forgotten, 1978's Ciao Maschio (called Bye Bye Monkey for its English-language release) had Depardieu playing a French electrician living in New York who finds a baby chimpanzee and decides to raise it as a son. It shared the Grand Prix award despite being described by some critics as "indecipherable."

His only Cannes win as an actor came in 1990 with Cyrano de Bergerac. (The Jean-Paul Rappeneau film also brought Depardieu his only best actor Oscar nomination.) Robert Osborne, then a film critic for The Hollywood Reporter, said the lead role "is a virtuoso part, and Depardieu plays it to the hilt." But the jury, led by Bertolucci, gave the Palme d'Or to David Lynch's Wild at Heart. One unusual detail THR noted was that Haiti's exiled dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier and entourage were part of that year's scene at the night-spot La Chunga.

A version of this story appears in The Hollywood Reporter's May 11 daily issue from the Cannes Film Festival.