Cannes 2022 Day 2 round-up: Tom Cruise swoops in for Top Gun premiere; exiled Russian director returns for gala

Cannes 2022 Day 2 round-up: Tom Cruise swoops in for Top Gun premiere; exiled Russian director returns for gala

Cannes 2022 Day 2 round-up: Tom Cruise swoops in for Top Gun premiere; exiled Russian director returns for gala

Tom Cruise mania descended Wednesday in Cannes where the actor made a whirlwind appearance at the film festival, walking the red carpet, receiving a surprise Palme d’Or and watching a squadron of French fighter jets fly over the European premiere of Top Gun: Maverick.

Cannes pulled out all the stops to fete the 59-year-old star, paying tribute to Cruise with not just a rare interview on stage and a red-carpet premiere featuring a flyby of jets trailing coloured smoke, but with the unexpected presentation of an honorary Palme d’Or. Festival president Pierre Lescure announced the award — about 15 honorary Palmes have been given before — on stage just before the screening was to begin. Cruise clutched Cannes’ top prize while the audience gave the actor a standing ovation.

Cruise brought a palpable buzz to the Croisette, where throngs gathered around the Palais des Festivals shouting “Tom!” to try to get a glimpse of the 59-year-old star. Great Balls of Fire blared on the carpet.

Cruise hadn’t been to the festival in three decades. But with plenty of media disruption challenging the theatrical experience, Cannes and Cruise exuded the vibe of long-last pals. “He is devoted to cinema,” declared artistic director Thierry Fremaux. Cruise’s enthusiastic welcome smacked in some ways of an action hero’s reception, here to save the day.

“I make movies for the big screen,” Cruise said to applause in an interview on stage at Cannes’ Debussy Theatre.

Tom Cruise, left, and Jennifer Connelly pose for photographers at the photo call for the film 'Top Gun: Maverick' at the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

The European premiere of Top Gun: Maverick, directed by Joseph Kosinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, brought out what’s likely to be among the most star-studded red carpets of the Cannes Film Festival, which opened Tuesday and runs through 28 May. Among those in attendance were Viola Davis, Dakota Fanning, Omar Sy and Eva Longoria — along with “Top Gun: Maverick” stars Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm and Glen Powell.

While Cruise arrived by helicopter at the film’s San Diego premiere aboard an aircraft carrier, he came to the Cannes premiere more traditionally, with the film’s cast and filmmakers in a cavalcade of cars. Cruise paused for several minutes to sign autographs and take pictures with fans lined up across the street from the red carpet.

Before that, the festival honoured Cruise with a tribute that consisted of a career-spanning video montage, after which Cruise spoke about his dedication to filmmaking in an interview that stayed away from any personal questions. Instead, he responded to prodding from interviewer Didier Allouch about why, Monsieur Cruise, do you take such risks doing your own stunts?

“No one asked Gene Kelly ‘Why do you dance?’” answered Cruise.

Lewis Pullman, from left, Greg Tarzan Davis, Danny Ramirez, Glen Powell, Jay Ellis, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Tom Cruise, director Joseph Kosinski, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Jon Hamm depart after the premiere of the film 'Top Gun: Maverick' at the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

The Cannes stopover for Top Gun: Maverick is part of a worldwide tour for the film ahead of its May 27 launch in theatres. It has already touched down at CinemaCon in Las Vegas and premiered in San Diego. Paramount Pictures delayed its release two years during the pandemic, a move that appears to be paying off with glowing reviews and box-office expectations that Top Gun: Maverick will easily mark Cruise’s biggest opening weekend ever.

Asked if he was ever tempted to steer the film to a streaming service, Cruise replied emphatically.

“No, that’s not going to happen ever,” responded Cruise to loud applause. “That was never going to happen.”

Cruise spent the majority of the conversation explaining his extreme dedication to the craft of moviemaking, how from an early age he dug into every element of film productions and analyzed how particular modes of acting worked best on the big screen. Shooting the 1981 film Taps, with George C. Scott, he returned to it again and again as a formative experience.

“Please,” Cruise said he thought at the time, “if I could just do this for the rest of my life, I will never take it for granted.”

Screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, from left, Tom Cruise, director Joseph Kosinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer pose for photographers at the photo call for the film 'Top Gun: Maverick' at the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Meanwhile, in the main competition for the top prize Palme d'Or, Cannes was set to welcome Russian dissident Kirill Serebrennikov with a very different offering: Tchaikovsky's Wife about the legendary composer's brief and tragic marriage.

The director was unable to attend the festival for two previous nominations due to a controversial court case that barred him from leaving Russia.

It’s a period film that challenges state propaganda, which has attempted to hide that the famous Russian composer was homosexual. In 2013, Russia enacted a law banning “gay propaganda.”

Tchaikovsky’s Wife, a fiercely political film made by one of Russia’s most prominent filmmaking dissidents, arrives in Cannes while Russia’s war rages in Ukraine and Europe has redrawn its cultural borders.

“I take filmmaking and theatre-making and culture-making as a big, vast statement against war,” Serebrennikov said in an interview Wednesday on a Palais des Festivals balcony ahead of his film’s premiere. “War is about killing people. It’s about destroying everything. It’s about taking people not like persons but like crowds. They put them easily into the fog of war and don’t care about anyone, any fragility of each person.”

“Art is always against war,” he added.

His film premiered on the festival’s second day, which opened with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressing the gathering in an address that referenced films like Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and urged filmmakers not to “stay silent.”

Director Kirill Serebrennikov, from left, Filipp Avdeyev, Oxxxymiron, and lya Stewart pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Tchaikovsky's Wife' at the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Serebrennikov’s very presence at Cannes has been charged. Some in Ukraine has called for a boycott of all Russians at the festival and other major artistic gatherings. Cannes organizers elected to ban Russians with ties to the government but not filmmakers.

Still, Serebrennikov is one of the only Russian filmmakers in Cannes this year — a role he doesn’t relish.

“If you asked me on the 23 February if war possible with Ukraine, I would have said, ‘No, never. It’s not possible.’ But it’s happened. My motherland destroyed another country,” says Serebrennikov. “It’s very painful, it’s very sad. It’s a catastrophe for all people, for Europe, for both sides. Not only for Ukrainian people but in Russia, as well. A lot of people can’t say anything. And sometimes, powerlessness and speechlessness is much more painful. Now, Ukraine is one nation fighting an enemy.”

This year's jury includes Oscar winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi and Indian superstar Deepika Padukone Valery HACHE AFP

Tchaikovsky’s Wife stars Alyona Mikhailova as Antonina Miliukova and Odin Biron, an American actor who has acted in Russian television, as Pyotr Tchaikovsky. It was partially financed by the sanctioned Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich. Cannes Artistic Director Thierry Frémaux said the festival wrestled with whether to include the film in competition, ultimately deciding to because it counters Russian state narratives and it was shot before the war and subsequent sanctions.

To Serebrennikov, his film — which doesn’t attempt to shroud Tchaikovsky’s sexuality — is about “the fragility of the human soul.” It’s made from the perspective of Miliukova, who’s shown as ardently devoted to the composer despite his complete disinterest in her. She spends much of the film in her own kind of exile from Tchaikovsky.

Serebrennikov compares the standard Russian view of Tchaikovsky to that of monuments or idols.

“I just wanted to tell something important for the nation might be a life, not like propaganda, a (expletive) monument but something real,” said Serebrennikov. “Some people are really scared of reality. It’s why they prefer to pray for their idols and their monuments are made of iron instead of love.”

(With inputs from agencies)