Venice: French Film Composer Alexandre Desplat to Head Competition Jury

Aaron Poole / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Alexandre Desplat

UPDATED: Desplat, who earned six Oscar nominations for musical scores including those for "Argo" and "The King's Speech," is the first composer to serve as jury president in Venice's 71-year history.

ROME — French film composer Alexandre Desplat will head the main competition jury at the 71st Venice Film Festival, organizers announced Monday.

His appointment marks the first time the storied event has selected a composer to serve as president of its main jury.

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The 52-year-old Desplat has earned Oscar nominations for his work in six films, all since 2006: The Queen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The King’s Speech, Argo and Philomena. He has collaborated with directors ranging from Roman Polanski, Terrence Malick and Stephen Frears to George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Wes Anderson.

“Alexandre Desplat is not only one of the greatest composers of film scores today, but an ardent cinéphile whose extraordinary artistic sensitivity is sustained by a profound knowledge of cinema, its history and its language,” said Alberto Barbera, Venice’s artistic director.

Desplat said he felt privileged to have been chosen for the job: “It is a great honor and arduous responsibility to be the president of the jury for such a prestigious festival,” he said in a statement.

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Barbera hinted at the “surprise” announcement on Twitter a day earlier, piquing curiosity in writing the jury head was “Not a film director. Not an actor.”

The nine-person jury will hand out eight awards on the festival’s final night, including its most prestigious honors: the Golden Lion for Best Film, the Silver Lion for Best Director, acting prizes and two jury prizes.

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The announcement is the third — and most important — jury-related announcement out of Venice so far. The festival previously announced that Cannes Grand Prix winner Alice Rohrwacher would head the jury that will award the prize for Best Debut Film, while Hong Kong’s Ann Hui would preside over the jury for the Horizons section.

Venice, the world’s oldest film festival, will take place this year from Aug. 27-Sept. 6.

Twitter: @EricJLyman