Cannes can have a huge impact on a star's career–from the dazzling experience of walking up the Palais red carpet, to facing a gauntlet of international press. With the Cannes lineup revealed, we dig into what this year's Croisette stars have to win or lose.
THE STAR WHO DOESN'T NEED A BOOST:
Brad Pitt: He wants an Oscar though. While he may have lost the "Moneyball" statuette he deserved to "The Artist"'s Jean Dujardin, 2011 was Pitt's best year ever; last year at Cannes "The Tree of Life" won the Palme d'Or. This year, Pitt has been rewarded with a Cannes Competition slot for loyally rejoining Aussie Andrew Dominik (who directed him in underappreciated cult fave "The Assassination of Jesse James) on the gangster pic "Killing Them Softly." With Harvey Weinstein behind him, a Cannes launch could set Pitt up for another Oscar nomination.
2012 and 2013 are looking strong for Pitt. He also stars in Marc Forster's zombie epic "World War Z" (June 2013) and the currently-filming third feature from Steve McQueen ("Twelve Years a Slave," opposite Michael Fassbender). As befits a star at the apex of the Hollywood food chain, he has several more projects in the works (as producer and/or actor) — not to mention his official engagement to partner Angelina Jolie. Pitt is hot as ever with the best of his career still ahead.
THE STARS WHO DO NEED A BOOST:
Nicole Kidman: Things are looking up for Kidman after a year of 2011 duds such as "Just Go With It" and "Trespass." She boasts not one but two Cannes entries: Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy" with Matthew McConaughey, and Philip Kaufman's HBO biopic "Hemingway & Gellhorn," opposite Clive Owen. (An Oscar nomination wouldn't hurt.) And she's just landed the Grace Kelly role in Olivier Dahan's "Grace of Monaco" and is pushing a handful of other projects in various stages of development. She's still an Oscar-winning movie star.
Tom Hardy: "Warrior" proved that Hardy is not yet a marquee draw like Pitt. But Hardy is on the rise; he has cemented himself as a one-of-a-kind diverse talent with "Bronson," "Inception" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." He's raising his profile with iffy mainstream fare ("This Means War") and back with Christopher Nolan (as villain Bane) in summer tentpole "The Dark Knight Rises." With John Hillcoat's "Lawless" at Cannes, we'll see another dimension to Hardy before the still-in-the-works "Mad Max" reboot. Hardy is also linked to a biker project and may play Al Capone in "Cicero." Staying away from mainstream dreck and big-screen fame can lead to a slow and steady career rise.
Matthew McConaughey: Let's call "The Lincoln Lawyer" the start of his return (and his best work since 1996's "A Time to Kill"). With two films playing Cannes–Daniels' "The Paperboy" and Jeff Nichols' "Mud"–following up William Friedkin's "Killer Joe" (SXSW), Richard Linklater's "Bernie" (LAFF, April 27) and Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike" (June 29) – McConnaughey is working hard, and mixing things up, to prove the comeback is official. He's even developing a cable series with chum Woody Harrelson.
Eva Mendes: While she's worked steadily since 1998 ("Children of the Corn V") and got a boost with romantic comedy "Hitch" as Will Smith's uber-sexy and likable modern American sweetheart, she hasn't stood out in any stand-out films of late (not "Ghost Rider," "We Own the Night" or "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans"), but she's gotten a handful of billboards and beauty endorsements. Now's her time to break out as a serious leading lady. Cannes' "Holy Rollers" from Leos Carax could do it, or "Girl in Progress" (May 11) or Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond the Pines" alongside Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper and Rose Byrne (in post). The ample talent is evident and waiting.
THE STARS (WHO NEED TO PROVE THEMSELVES OUTSIDE THEIR COMFORT ZONE):
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, with Walter Salles' "On the Road" and David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis," respectively, both need to prove their acting skills outside of the "Twilight" franchise. This sounds like a broken record, as Stewart has done stalwart work in uncommercial indies "Welcome to the Rileys," "The Yellow Handkerchief" or "The Runaways," and has "Snow White and the Huntsman" still to come, while Pattinson has the lacklustre "Remember Me" and "Water for Elephants" under his belt and "Bel Ami" (June 8) coming up. None of these films have garnered as much attention for them as their on-and-off-screen romance. Given that both now have their own films in competition at Cannes with skilled directors, it's now or never to shed the baby fangs.
Zac Efron: As strong as he was in "Hairspray," it's no surprise that many have dismissed Efron in the likes of "17 Again," "Me and Orson Welles" and "Charlie St. Cloud." After all, the 24-year-old earned his fame through a Disney TV-to-film franchise ("High School Musical"). Headlining "The Paperboy" with Kidman, McConaughey and John Cusack at Cannes should help him to attract a more grown-up audience, as could "Liberal Arts," in which he stars with Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins and Allison Janney (the Josh Radnor film debuted at Sundance, and is yet to be released). But he'll still need to show more than his pretty face to keep their attention.
Shia LaBeouf: It's time to grow up. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" didn't help anyone's career, but it still ranks among the Freshest of the "Transformers" franchise star's career. While he did get to play alongside Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," he hasn't charmed his way into the hearts and minds of a more high-brow audience. With Hillcoat's "Lawless" playing Cannes as well as his upcoming role in Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep" (alongside Redford, Julie Christie, Sam Elliot, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick and Terrence Howard), a career shift may be in sight.
THE FOREIGN GEMS:
After "Bullhead," we're sold on anything Belgian Matthias Schoenaerts does, especially if it's with our favorite, French Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard. They star together in Cannes' "Rust & Bone" from "A Prophet" director Jacques Audiard as well as the upcoming "Blood Ties" remake from Guillaume Canet. The always impressive Cotillard also joins Hardy in "The Dark Knight Rises" (she also has a yet-to-be-titled James Gray film upcoming); ditto Mads Mikkelson ("After the Wedding," "Casino Royale," "Valhalla Rising"), who comes to Cannes this year with Thomas Vinterberg's "The Hunt" from Denmark.
THE WANNA-BE STARS:
Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley star as Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise in Salles' "On The Road." While Hedlund appeared in "Friday Night Lights," "Four Brothers," "TRON: Legacy" and "Country Strong," he's still waiting for that star-making role. He's got the looks, talent and charisma. Riley broke out in Brit indies "Control" (from Anton Corbjin) and Rowan Joffe's "Brighton Rock" but is still mostly unknown stateside. Depending on how "On the Road" plays at Cannes, both actors could find themselves in star-making roles.