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At 61, Demi Moore Triumphs at 2024 Cannes Film Festival

Filmmakers over 50 take honors and draw raves — especially Moore, who gets naked in her satirical anti-ageism hit ‘The Substance’

spinner image Demi Moore on the red carpet at the 77th Cannes Film Festival
Demi Moore arrives for the closing ceremony of the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 25, 2024.
AFP via Getty Images

The 2024 Cannes Film Festival ended on May 25 and gave the Palme d’Or, its top prize, to Anora, a Cinderella-esque comedy about a Brooklyn sex worker courted by the son of a Russian oligarch. Director Sean Baker, 53 (The Florida Project), is a probable Oscar contender.

He’s not the only filmmaker over 50 who made a mark at the world’s most prestigious film fest. The most conspicuous Oscar-likely star was Demi Moore, 61, making her Cannes debut in The Substance as an aging actress who has a scandalous nude fight scene with a young rival.

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Juliette Binoche, 60, presented an honorary Palme d’Or to Meryl Streep, 74, and Francis Ford Coppola, 85, gave the same to George Lucas, 80. Coppola’s new film, Megalopolis, a dream project starring Adam Driver and Better Call Saul’s Giancarlo Esposito, 66, that he’s worked on for decades, got no awards but lots of controversy for its convoluted depiction of a fantasy Manhattan resembling ancient Rome. The worldwide headlines helped it sell foreign rights (no word on when it might open in the U.S.). Kevin Costner, 69, premiered his also-decades-in-the-making Western Horizon to more catcalls than acclaim, but the hoopla made sure it’ll get noticed when it’s released in the U.S. June 28.

Here are the grownup stars and films to watch for when they arrive on American screens:

Demi Moore was the big Cannes buzz queen

Moore, 61, leaped back into the spotlight in The Substance (in theaters Sept. 20), a satire of showbiz ageism and sexism in which she plays a onetime Oscar winning actress, Elisabeth Sparkle, whose slimy boss (Dennis Quaid, 70) tells her that when a woman hits 50, she’s done. So he’ll replace her with a youngster on her Jane Fonda-like exercise show, Sparkle Your Life. She creates a younger clone of herself (Margaret Qualley), and her original and young selves must spend every other week in a kind of coma, the other hosting her show. Qualley’s character progressively and horribly disfigures Elisabeth’s beauty, culminating in a bloody, full-frontal nudity fight between them. Moore looks so fit that some viewers may be inspired to emulate her Pilates regimen, if not her character’s cloning misfortune. “Moore’s triumphant comeback skewers the sexism that Hollywood threw at her,” The Telegraph said. Actress Eva Green, one of the Cannes jurors, called the film “bold and beautifully bonkers.” The movie’s wildness and gory finale may put some viewers off, but it could nab Moore her first Oscar. She hasn’t gotten such mileage out of getting naked since her 1991 Vanity Fair cover.

spinner image (Left to right) Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldana and Karla Sofia Gascon smiling at the 77th Cannes Film Festival
(Left to right) Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldana and Karla Sofia Gascon pose during a photocall for the film "Emilia Perez" at the 77th Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France on May 19, 2024.
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Three people shared the best actress award, in the same film

The jury prize went to Emilia Pérez, by Jacques Audiard, 72, about a Mexican cartel leader (Karla Sofia Gascon, 52) who hires a woman (Zoe Saldana) to help him fake his own death and change his sex — without his wife (Selena Gomez) finding out. All three actors shared the Cannes best actress award. Juror Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon) hailed the “harmony of sisterhood” in the film. It’s also partly a musical and sounds too weird for mainstream audiences — but it’s headed to Netflix, likely this year, accompanied by an Oscar campaign.

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spinner image Divya Prabha, Payal Kapadia, Chhaya Kadam and Kani Kusruti pose together with the Grand Prix Award at the 77th Cannes Film Festival
(Left to right) Divya Prabha, Payal Kapadia, Chhaya Kadam and Kani Kusruti pose with the Grand Prix Award for "All We Imagine as Light" at the 77th Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 25, 2024 in Cannes, France.
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An intergenerational film from India took the second-highest honors

Payal Kapadia’s All We Imagine as Light (expected to be released this year in the U.S.) took the Grand Prix with a tale of two love-troubled young Mumbai nurses (Kani Kusruti and Divya Prabha) who bond with a retired widow (Chhaya Kadam). Kadam, who does not reveal her age, wore her mother’s sari to the premiere, a triumph since it’s India’s first film to compete in the main category at Cannes in 30 years. Her mother died just before the festival. “I started earning quite late,” Kadam told The Hindu newspaper. “Everything got delayed. I felt like I should wear my mother’s sari because she would have worn that at Cannes.”

spinner image Sebastian Stan, Ali Abbasi and Maria Bakalova attend "The Apprentice" after-party at the 77th Cannes Film Festival
(Left to right) Sebastian Stan, Ali Abbasi and Maria Bakalova attend "The Apprentice" after-party during the 77th Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2024 in Cannes, France.
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A Donald Trump biopic earned good reviews — and furious legal action

The Apprentice, which chronicles the early career of Trump, 77, before his The Apprentice TV show days, won no awards, but Succession’s Jeremy Strong got raves as Trump’s ruthless mentor Roy Cohn. Sebastian Stan plays Trump. The film was upstaged by a cease-and-desist letter from Trump’s lawyers. “This ‘film’ is pure malicious defamation, should not see the light of day, and doesn’t even deserve a place in the straight-to-DVD section of a bargain bin at a soon-to-be-closed discount movie store, it belongs in a dumpster fire,” Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said in a statement. Director Ali Abbasi, who offered to screen the film privately for Trump, told reporters at Cannes, “Everybody talks about him suing a lot of people — they don’t talk about his success rate though, you know?” The most controversial scene depicts a disturbing sexual encounter between Trump and first wife Ivana (the talented Maria Bakalova). Ivana Trump alleged this event in her divorce proceedings. She later said, “As a woman, I felt violated, as the love and tenderness, which he normally exhibited towards me, was absent. I referred to this as a ‘rape,’ but I do not want my words to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”

The film’s fate looks to be up in the air. “We have a promotional event coming up called [the] U.S. election,” Abbasi said. “If I’m remembering right, the second debate’s going to be on Sept. 15 [between Trump and President Joe Biden], something like that. So that’s a good release date for us, I would say.”

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The director of Poor Things premiered a movie said to be even stranger

In Kinds of Kindness (in theaters June 21), the latest film by surrealist director Yorgos Lanthimos, 50 (Poor Things, The Favourite), Jesse Plemons plays roles in three different stories, as a businessman oppressed by his cruel boss (Willem Dafoe, 68), a policeman who doesn’t believe his wife (Poor Things star and Oscar winner Emma Stone) is really his wife, and a member of a bizarre cult (led by Dafoe). Reviewers were mostly positive, partly because Lanthimos is a revered six-time Oscar nominee and Plemons reportedly pulled off a triple crown of acting.

spinner image Director Mohammad Rasoulof on the The Seed of the Sacred Fig red carpet at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival
Mohammad Rasoulof departs the "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" red carpet at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 24, 2024 in Cannes, France.
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The most inspiring winner risked his life to get to Cannes

Director Mohammad Rasoulof, 52, won a special jury prize for the three-hour The Seed of the Sacred Fig (to be released this year in the U.S.). Its tale of two daughters whose friend gets shot in the face by police at a demonstration against Iran’s anti-woman rulers, while their judge father condemns protesters to death, earned a perfect 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes — and brought an eight-year prison sentence with a whipping for Rasoulof from Iran’s enraged authorities. He escaped from Iran on foot over mountains, went into hiding abroad and showed up at Cannes. He was greeted with a 12-minute standing ovation.

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