Matt Damon is so happy the movie industry is coming back he could cry.
The Hollywood star shed tears when he received a standing ovation — that lasted for five minutes, Variety reported — for his new movie "Stillwater" from a packed crowd at the 74th Cannes Film Festival in France on Thursday night.
The communal experience of an audience watching a movie was put on hold for more than a year during the pandemic as theaters across the world shuttered. Damon was overjoyed to have it back after Cannes was not held in its normal form last year.
"I was a little overwhelmed last night, and I’m really glad that we’re here this year,” he told reporters on Friday. "Because I think we’ll all look back and remember launching out of COVID — and what a way to do it."
Watching the premiere of "Stillwater" drove home to the "Ford v Ferrari" star what the movie industry had missed as people watched movies in their homes alone or in small groups during the pandemic.
"To be in the same room with 1,000 other people who are strangers but are part of the same community because we all love the same thing — it was such a great reminder of why we do this," he said. "I never would have appreciated it in that way had we not just gone through what we went through."
The film Damon debuted at Cannes, which comes out in theaters July 30, also has a French connection. His estranged daughter in the movie, played by Abigail Breslin, has been falsely arrested and accused of murdering her friend while studying abroad in Marseille.
Damon plays an oil rig worker from Stillwater, Oklahoma, who moves to France to come to his daughter's aid and gets help adjusting to a new country from a French woman (Camille Cottin) and her 8-year-old daughter (Lilou Siauvaud) while trying to save his own daughter.
"Stillwater" comes out as the drop in COVID-19 cases across the country amid the nationwide vaccination effort has led to a return to movie theaters. The latest installment in the "Fast and Furious" franchise, "F9," had a huge $70 million U.S. debut last month and grossed more than $500 million globally through July 7 in a sign that audiences are back watching movies together.
Actor Mati Diop said earlier at Cannes that this year's film festival is "the first one of a new era."
"That’s a really great way to put it — it does feel different," Damon said. "I’ve been here a number of times, and last night was unlike any other experience I’ve had here.