• Festivals

Forest Whitaker Receives an Honorary Palme d’Or at the Opening of the 75th Cannes

Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning actor, producer, and director, Forest Whitaker was met with a standing ovation at the opening ceremony for the 75th Cannes Film Festival when he received an honorary Palme d’Or lifetime achievement.  He follows such luminaries as Jodie Foster, Jeanne Moreau, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jane Fonda, Manoel de Oliveira, and Agnes Varda.

Cognizant of his good fortune, he said in a statement, “It’s always a privilege to return to this beautiful festival to both screen my own work, and to be inspired by many of the world’s greatest artists – and I feel incredibly honored to be celebrated as part of the festival’s momentous 75th anniversary.”

Whitaker, 60, is known for his performances in such films as The Crying Game (1992), The Last King of Scotland (2006), The Butler (2013), Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story (2016),  Arrival (2016).  And as a director, his films Waiting to Exhale (1995), Hope Floats (1998), and First Daughter (2004). 

He enjoys a long history with the Cannes Film Festival.  In fact, it was in 1988 that he first attended the prestigious festival.  He was promoting Clint Eastwood’s Charlie Parker biopic, Bird, and Whitaker took home the Cannes Film Festival Best Actor award that year.  Since then he’s returned many times with such films as Body Snatchers, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, and A Rage in Harlem. 

He said during the press conference in Cannes, while promoting his documentary For The Sake of Peace about south Sudan, “When I first came to Cannes, I was a kid.  I’d never really done interviews, I’d never really been to a film festival and I was overwhelmed by it.  I didn’t even know how to respond,” he chuckles.  “I was acknowledged as an artist for the first time internationally. It really changed my life and the trajectory of my career in some ways because it allowed me to be seen as an artist and not just a player.”

Whitaker continues.  “I was there with Clint Eastwood, who commands so much respect and I remember people were screaming his name.”  He pauses.  “It was all so new.  I’d been trying to play that part and [I was thinking to myself] now I’m here!  And then when I was acknowledged, it touched my heart. It really was a gift as great a gift I could have imagined at the time. I remember that night before I was in my room, and my brother was with me. And he said, ‘Hey, they say it’s possible you could win something.’ I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ I said, ‘I don’t think so,’” he recalls.  “For me, I was just blown away by being invited for the experience in the first place and then it turned out to be something really beautiful. I met a lot of great filmmakers and really interesting people.”

Next up for the acclaimed actor, a starring role in Megalopolis, a film which has been in the works for over two decades by Francis Ford Coppola.

“We’ve been talking for a few years now. He’s done some rewrites working on the project and he was working through the pandemic,” he says.  “Now it looks like we’re going to be starting to shoot in August, the cast is coming together and I’m excited about working with Francis Ford Coppola.”