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How Taylor Sheridan’s ‘Wind River’ Won an Award at Cannes

After writing Cannes and Oscar contenders "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water," Taylor Sheridan returned to Cannes with "Wind River."

Taylor Sheridan, Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen'Wind River' photocall, 70th Cannes Film Festival, France - 20 May 2017

Taylor Sheridan, Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen
of “Wind River” at Cannes

James Gourley/REX/Shutterstock

Last week, Taylor Sheridan went to Cannes for the first time with his directorial debut “Wind River,” a sharp thriller starring Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen set on a Native American reservation. It was Sheridan’s first trip to Europe, even though he wrote two Cannes and Oscar entries in a row, Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water,” for which he was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.

He went on to write and direct “Wind River” (August 4, The Weinstein Co.), which debuted at Sundance and won the Un Certain Regard mise-en-scene (directing) prize at Cannes Saturday. “It’s the first time I’ve won anything,” Sheridan told me on the phone from Wyoming, where he had been mushroom hunting.

Cannes doesn’t fly in writers, apparently. “I had to direct something,” he said. Being in the South of France was “pretty overwhelming, a whirlwind,” he said. “It feels strange talking about this movie on a yacht, elitist and all that. I never walked a red carpet like this. The intensity around the festival is powerful.”

While the former actor likes to present himself as the outsider Texan, Sheridan has maneuvered his film fairly astutely. When he needed more money to finish his movie — which was going through endless deal negotiations with the Weinstein Co. — he submitted “Wind River” to Sundance, which inspired Weinstein to give him the extra cash to complete the film, he said: “Finally, the negotiations between the finance company and distributor came together.”

Next up: He’s writing and will start shooting in August “Yellowstone” (2018) a 10-episode contemporary western series for the Weinstein Co. and the new Paramount Network (formerly Spike), the studio’s answer to Netflix. “It’s their first show,” he said. “It’s about the exploration and death of the American West, starring Kevin Costner. Sometimes audiences want to see what we’re doing to their world. It’s our obligation sometimes to reflect it.”

jeremy renner elizabeth olsen wind river

“Wind River”

Harvey Weinstein accepted the Un Certain Regard award for  Sheridan and read his political acceptance speech:

“It is a great shame of my nation the manner it has treated the original inhabitants of North America. Sadly, my government continues that shame through an insidious mixture of apathy and exploitation. There is nothing I can do to change the issues afflicting Indian Country, but what we can all do as artists — and must do — is scream about them with fists clenched. What we CAN do — is make sure these issues aren’t ignored. Then the people who CAN effect change will be forced to.”

Here are the other prize-winners of the Un Certain Regard jury:

PRIX UN CERTAIN REGARD

“Lerd” (“A Man of Integrity”) by Mohammad Rasoulof

PRIX D’INTERPRETATION FEMININE

Jasmine Trinca for “Fortunata” by Sergio Castellitto

PRIX DE LA POESIE DU CINEMA

“Barbara” by Mathieu Amalric

PRIX DE LA MISE EN SCENE

Taylor Sheridan for “Wind River”

PRIX DU JURY

“April’s Daughter” by Michel Franco

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