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Pedro Almodóvar Responds to Viggo Mortensen on Cronenberg Cannes Jury Snub: ‘I Am Not to Blame’ for Rumors

In a statement to IndieWire, the filmmaker addresses claims made by the actor this week that "All About My Mother" was "deprived" of its award by jury president David Cronenberg.

Opening Ceremony Cannes Film Festival 2021, July 6th, 2021. +++ Pedro Almodovar bei der Opening Ceremony mit der Premiere des Kinofilms Annette auf dem Festival de Cannes 2021 / 74. Internationale Filmfestspiele von Cannes im Palais des Festivals. Cannes, 06.07.2021 (Photo by ddp images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Pedro Almodovar at Cannes

Sipa USA via AP

While David Cronenberg is at Cannes this year with “Crimes of the Future” in competition, another story about the director’s history at the festival has resurfaced: In 1999, Cronenberg served as president of the jury that picked Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “Rosetta” over Pedro Almodóvar’s “All About My Mother,” the presumed frontrunner at the time. Cronenberg has dispelled the myth that his jury intentionally snubbed Almodóvar, who went on to win Best Director at the festival and, later, an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. However, the situation resurfaced this week during a public conversation at Cannes, when “Crimes of the Future” star Viggo Mortensen criticized Almodóvar for allegedly claiming that he had been “deprived” of the award. Almodóvar has shared the following response with IndieWire.

How odd stories remain and get distorted with time. I have just read in IndieWire some public remarks by Viggo Mortensen about the Palme d’Or that I didn’t win for “All About My Mother,” which went to “Rosetta.” I don’t think Viggo is the right person to talk about this. On top of that, he is a friend of mine and his words have shocked me, but I suppose he was defending his director, David Cronenberg, from a curse that has been following him since 1999 and for which I am not to blame.

Anyone who has the time to look up the awards ceremony of that year will see that I was the happiest person in the world from the moment I got up on the stage to receive mine. No one will be able to find a trace of disappointment in my face in all the photos or in my answers during the press conference, only happiness and euphoria. I cannot accept to be portrayed as embittered for not receiving the Palme d’Or. You just have to go back to the press archives to find out for yourself.

It is true that some days ago, I wrote for the Spanish newspaper El País that I was the closest to win the damned Palme with “All About My Mother.” I was referring to the enthusiastic reaction from the critics and the audience. As a matter of fact, when I got back to Cannes that Sunday for the closing ceremony, the front page of French newspaper Nice Matin announced me as the winner, with a smaller headline explaining that was the forecast considering the critical and audience response. I knew by then that the Palme was for another film, the festival had warned me, but I was radiant with the award I was about to receive and I felt like I was in a dream.

I have never criticized the list of winners. I dare anyone to prove the contrary. But, with time, I started feeling upset with this whole business because several members of the jury came to me in the party after the ceremony to express what felt like their condolences as they apologized to me for not having received the Palme. I listened to them, unable to reply, because I couldn’t understand what they were talking about. I was very happy, I had just received my best director award, and there was nothing to complain about.

Soon after, this was a hot topic for the press, as were the lack of awards for David Lynch’s “The Straight Story.” I never said a word, mainly because I hadn’t seen the other films, and it would still take me some years to see them all because auteur films are not automatically released.

I know the rules of this festival’s game. I was a member of the jury in 1992 and I presided over it in 2017. I agree with the fact that the president’s vote doesn’t count more than those of his or her fellow jury members. Those rumors Viggo mentions have been fueled by the press over the years. The French press in particular portrays me as someone whose only desire is to win the Palme d’Or; they don’t know how wrong they are. In my career as a writer and director, I’ve had more awards than I could ever dream of. I am a very fortunate artist.

There is something that has profoundly bothered me in Viggo’s recent remarks. “It’s like Trump,” he said. “You keep saying something and people start thinking there must be something to it, when it’s complete bullshit.”

I refuse to be compared with one of the most atrocious characters in the current public sphere. Someone should explain here “who” has said “what,” because I have not and I feel insulted. Viggo’s other remark is very unpleasant, too: “It’s a nonsense story and beneath a great artist like Pedro.”

This is the first and only time I will publicly discuss this matter, aside from that article in El País, and here’s what I have to say about it: This is not about “Titane” being worst than “Crash,” or “All About My Mother” being better than “Rosetta,” but about celebrating them all. I can only thank the Cannes Film Festival for offering a memorable selection of films every year, for without them life would be duller. Cannes is one of the biggest celebrations of auteur films and that makes it even more relevant every year. I only regret that some of the films presented there take so long to be released commercially, and that distractions like this story continue to take away from more important problems.

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