The Cannes Film Festival is turning into quite the refuge for postponed Oscar bait. After “The Great Gatsby” skipped the 2012 awards season to open last year's fest instead (and wound up with a pair of Oscars to boot), the Weinsteins' seemingly troubled “Grace of Monaco” is following the same path. Now, on a more prestigious note, a source tells In Contention that Bennett Miller's much-anticipated drama “Foxcatcher” — one of the films Variety recently bandied about as a potential Cannes bow — will have its world premiere on the Croisette in May, though no one at Sony Classics would confirm at this time.
“Foxcatcher,” a stranger-than-fiction true-crime drama based on the autobiography of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz, was originally lined up to be a formidable contender in the 2013/14 Oscar derby, securing the Opening Night slot at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles — until Sony Pictures Classics rather abruptly pulled it from the slate. It was a slightly surprising move, given that the studio didn't have a bigger pony in the race: “Blue Jasmine” became their number-one campaign priority instead, winning Best Actress for Cate Blanchett but narrowly missing out on a Best Picture nod.
However, with all due respect to the AFI Fest, a Cannes Competition berth (which looks probable) is a significantly bigger deal, and a grand way to launch a serious Oscar player. For Miller — whose first two films, “Capote” and “Moneyball,” both landed Best Picture nominations — this would be his first outing on the major European festival circuit. (“Capote” and “Moneyball” were both Toronto premieres.)
Cannes has given a handy head start to many an Oscar heavyweight over the years: 2011 Best Picture winner “The Artist,” of course, premiered at Cannes (where it won Best Actor), while recent Palme d'Or winners “The Tree of Life” and “Amour” both found favor with the Academy. Of course, a film needn't take any gold at the festival itself to gain an advantage: “No Country for Old Men” and “Mystic River” are examples of American Competition entries that were perhaps too mainstream for the Cannes jury, but not for Oscar voters. (That might prove the best point of comparison for “Foxcatcher.”)
More important than festival awards would be critical buzz, particularly for what look to be significant performances from Channing Tatum, playing Schultz, and Steve Carell, playing notably against type as John du Pont, the wealthy paranoid schizophrenic who murdered Schultz's brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Performance-based buzz goes a long way at Cannes: reviews for “Nebraska” last year were initially mixed, but acclaim for Bruce Dern's Best Actor-winning work became the bedrock of a successful long-term campaign. (The same might be said for “Inglourious Basterds” and Christoph Waltz a few years ago.)
Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller and Anthony Michael Hall round out the “Foxcatcher” cast, while the currently infallible Megan Ellison — fresh off her twin Oscar nominations for “American Hustle” and “Her” — is one of the producers. Dan Futterman, Oscar-nominated for his literate, artfully researched script for “Capote,” is back on Miller's team; the presence of ace cinematographer Greig Fraser and Oscar-winning composer Mychael Danna enhances an already classy package. (Fraser broke through on Jane Campion's “Bright Star”; Campion, of course, is this year's jury president, so she'll be watching the film with a sympathetic eye in at least one respect.)
David Cronenberg's “Maps to the Stars,” Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu's “Birdman” and Mike Leigh's “Mr. Turner” are among the other A-list prospects likely to compete alongside “Foxcatcher” at Cannes; the festival lineup will be formally unveiled on April 17.