What Happens to Cannes-Bound Films Now?

The French Dispatch
Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Wes Anderson's 'The French Dispatch' and Pixar's animated feature 'Soul' and 'Top Gun 2' were among the titles poised to premiere at the 2020 edition before it was postponed.

The further postponement of the 2020 Cannes International Film Festival leaves some of this year's most hotly anticipated studio and independent films in limbo. Features that were expected to make their world premiere on the Cannes Croisette — including Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch, Paul Verhoeven's Benedetta and Pixar's animated feature Soul — may now have to find another red carpet opportunity or skip the festival circuit altogether. 

Cannes occupies a central position in the calendar for tentpole titles, which use the festival's glitz and glamour, as well as its convenient congregation of international film journalists, to kick off press junkets and global rollouts. For independent films, a Cannes premiere can be a make-or-break moment, a key launchpad for movies that otherwise would never get noticed, much less released.

The Cannes model has been a keystone in the indie film business for decades, and proved its enduring appeal last year with Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, which leveraged winning the Palme d'Or for best film to become a crossover commercial hit and a best picture Oscar winner.

With the 2020 Cannes now looking unlikely to be held "in its original form," as the organizers admitted on Tuesday, this year's fest hopefuls are no doubt looking for a new home. To be sure, the festival could still be held in some form, since Cannes, in typical fashion, hasn't ruled anything out.

Here are some of the biggest titles poised for a Cannes bow and where they could possibly end up if the fest continues to be postponed indefinitely for several months. 

The French Dispatch 

After opening the Berlin International Film Festival with his previous two films — Isle of Dogs and The Grand Budapest Hotel — Wes Anderson was set on Cannes for the premiere of The French Dispatch, a Paris-set feature centered on a English-language American literary magazine loosely inspired by The Paris Review. A star-packed cast of Anderson regulars, including Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, joined by the likes of Jeffrey Wright and Timothée Chalamet, would have made The French Dispatch a must-see at the Palais. Searchlight has since pushed back the film's U.S. release from July to Oct. 16, making a festival bow in Toronto possible.

Benedetta 

Paul Verhoeven's lesbian nun movie had all the elements — including sex, religion and Charlotte Rampling — to make it a shoo-in for Cannes competition this year. The Dutch director enjoyed a late-career revival following the Cannes premiere of Elle in 2016, scoring an Oscar nomination for best actress for star Isabelle Huppert. Benedetta, which stars Virginie Efira as a 17th century nun who suffers from disturbing religious and erotic visions and begins a romantic love affair with another nun, could be a good fit for Venice, where Verhoeven premiered Black Book in 2006. 

Soul

Pixar has picked Cannes as the launchpad for some of its biggest hits, including Pete Docter and Bob Peterson's Up, which opened the festival in 2009, and Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen's Inside Out, a Cannes competition entry in 2015. Soul, which Docter co-directed with Kemp Powers, was expected to follow. The existential animated feature sees Jamie Foxx playing a middle school jazz teacher who has lost his passion for music and has his adult soul transported out of his body, where it meets and befriends an infant soul, voiced by Tina Fey. Disney has pushed back Soul's original June 19 release to Nov. 20, making it likely the film will bow in Toronto if it bothers with a festival release at all.

Top Gun: Maverick

A follow-up to 1986's action movie starring Tom Cruise might not look like a typical Cannes title, but the French festival loves its stars, and an out-of-competition slot for Joseph Kosinski's Top Gun sequel, which counts Jon Hamm and Jennifer Connelly among its cast, was apparently a done deal before the COVID-19 crisis. Paramount's plans have since shifted, along with the domestic release of Top Gun: Maverick, which has moved from June 24 to Dec. 23, suggesting the studio has ditched the idea of a festival launchpad entirely.

Memoria

The latest from Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul — 2010 Palme d'Or winner for Uncle Boonmee Who Could Recall His Past Lives — was all but guaranteed a Cannes slot. The drama marks the first time Weerasethakul has worked outside Thailand and the first time he's worked with a major star. Tilda Swinton plays the lead as a Scottish woman who, while traveling in Columbia, begins to suffer from auditory hallucinations. Parasite distributor Neon picked up Memoria when it was still in post and was obviously hoping for a repeat of the former film's Cannes-sparked crossover success. Neon has yet to date Memoria, but it will need a strong festival debut to drive critical buzz. Venice is the best bet, with Toronto a strong possibility.

Tre Piani

Italian director Nanni Moretti is a Cannes regular. Winner of the Palme d'Or in 2001 for The Son's Room, he's appeared at the French festival with features such as Il Caimano (2006), We Have a Pope (2011) and Mia Madre (2015) and even headed up the competition jury as president in 2012. Tre Piani, an adaptation of an Israeli novel by Eshkol Nevo, sees Moretti move from Italy to Tel Aviv but stay within his familiar theme of families in crisis and the ghosts of the past that continue to haunt the living. With Cannes no longer a possibility, expect Moretti to land in Venice, where the film's largely Italian cast, including Riccardo Scamarcio and Alba Rohrwacher, will be welcomed as local superstars. 

The Trial of the Chicago Seven

Aaron Sorkin’s second stint in the director’s chair after Molly’s Game could have added some significant star power to Cannes’ red carpet, with an ensemble cast including Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Michael Keaton, Jeremy Strong and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. From Paramount, Cross Creek and DreamWorks Pictures, the film is based on the infamous 1969 trial of seven defendants charged by the federal government with conspiracy, inciting to riot and other charges relating to anti-Vietnam War and countercultural protests around the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. With Paramount having set a domestic wide release date of Oct. 2, either a Venice or Toronto bow may be in the cards. 

Flag Day

Whether or not Sean Penn would have wanted to return to Cannes after the critical mauling his last turn as director — 2016's humanitarian romance The Last Face — received is unknown. But rumors had been swirling that the long-gestating Flag Day — in which Penn also stars alongside his daughter Dylan Penn, Josh Brolin and Miles Teller — was heading to the Croisette. Centering on a daughter struggling to overcome the loving yet dark legacy of her con man father, the film was written by Tony-winning playwright Jez Butterworth. Domestic rights are still available on the project, with Rocket Science and Wild Bunch handling international sales and CAA Media Finance repping U.S. and China.

Tenet

Christopher Nolan hasn't brought a single film to Cannes (he attended in 2018 to introduce a new 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey), so beyond gossip, it’s unknown whether his latest would have even been in contention. But with Tenet's summer release date of July 17, had Warner Bros. opted for a festival bow, Cannes would have been the logical choice, making it one of the fest's marquee premieres. Little is known about the project, save for its all-star cast of Robert Pattinson, John David Washington, Kenneth Branagh, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Debicki and — of course — Michael Caine, and a plot about a time-traveling secret agent tasked with preventing World War III. Tenet will likely have a typically Nolan out-of-festival debut.

Last Night in Soho

The latest from Baby Driver and Shaun of the Dead helmer Edgar Wright would have been a long shot for a competition entry, but the time-traveling horror title, featuring up-and-comers like Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy alongside 1960s Brit film legends Diana Rigg and Terence Stamp, was rumored to be in the mix for an out-of-competition or Midnight Screening slot. If Focus Features keeps to its original plans to bow Last Night in September, a Toronto premiere looks the most likely alternative. 

Peninsula

Another Midnight Screening frontrunner, the sequel to Yeon Sang-ho’s crossover Korean zombie movie, Train to Busan (which premiered at Cannes in 2016), Peninsula could have built on Cannes' reputation as the go-to festival for cutting-edge Korean cinema. Given the success of Train to Busan, which earned more than $90 million worldwide, Peninsula shouldn't have trouble finding a festival alternative, with genre-friendly Toronto the first port of call.

Summer of ’85

François Ozon looked ready to make his third appearance in Cannes competition, following 2003's Swimming Pool and Double Lover in 2017 with this new drama about a 16-year-old boy rescued off the coast of Normandy by an 18-year-old teenager. The film then tracks their budding relationship over a single fateful summer. An erotic tale of teen love set against an idyllic French countryside, Summer of ’85 would have be ideal Cannes fodder, but veteran Ozon should have no problem finding a festival slot in Venice.

The Woman in the Window

Joe Wright’s psychological thriller, starring Amy Adams as an agoraphobic, alcoholic psychologist who, Rear Window-style, observes her neighbors committing a violent crime, has been ready for months. But 20th Century Fox pushed back the film's original October 2019 release, and initially set a May 15 date for the film, apparently tying Woman in the Window to a Cannes premiere. The pic's final fate will depend on whether the studio wants to position the movie for an awards run, in which case a Venice, Telluride or Toronto bow is likely, or perhaps it will prefer to quietly drop the film in late fall without the hassle and extra cost of a festival premiere.