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Watch Spike Lee mistakenly announce top prize early at Cannes festival

Lee jumped the gun on Saturday, announcing Palme d'Or winner "Titane" before the other prizes at the Cannes Film Festival awards.
Spike Lee on stage during the closing ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival
Spike Lee grimaces on stage during the closing ceremony of the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, on July 17, 2021.Valery Sache / AFP via Getty Images
/ Source: NBC News

Spike Lee jumped the gun on Saturday, announcing Palme d'Or winner "Titane" before the other prizes at the Cannes Film Festival awards.

The unplanned goof could have robbed the awards of their usual suspense, but instead created a thrillingly unpredictable energy as presenters and attendees alike tried to imagine how to get the train back on track and what the jury president might do next — while holding their breath for the festival's second-ever female Palme d'Or winner to accept her prize.

With "Titane," French director Julia Ducournau ("Raw") delivers a radical horror vision — a portrait of a serial killer impregnated by a car who disguises her gender and goes incognito as a lonely fireman's long-lost son — sure to make waves as it rolls out in the wider world.

Turns out, the run-of-show slip was the first of many surprises, which included two ties. When it came time for Ducournau to accept her prize, she described watching the Cannes awards each year as a child. "At that time, I was sure that all the films awarded must have been perfect because they were on the stage. And tonight, I'm on that same stage, but I know my film is not perfect — but I think no film is perfect in the eyes of the person who made it. You could even say mine is monstrous."

Noting that "the world is becoming more and more fluid," Ducournau thanked the jury for embracing diversity and "for letting the monsters in."

Earlier in the night, the jury honored another monster with "Nitram," the unconventional portrait of a mass killing. The first winner to accept an award was that film's star, Caleb Landry Jones, who appeared so nervous at the podium that he declined to give a speech, lest he throw up. Jones earned the best actor prize for his stunning performance as the perpetrator of Australia's Port Arthur Massacre.

Best actress honors went to Norwegian actor Renate Reinsve for her luminous turn in "The Worst Person in the World," about a young woman who judges herself harshly for being unable to decide between lovers, career paths and whether she wants to raise a family.

The jury spread the wealth by giving the Grand Prix — second place only to the Palme d'Or in importance — to two different films: Asghar Farhadi's "A Hero" and Juho Kuosmanen's "Compartment No. 6."

Leos Carax earned the director prize for "Annette," a tragic musical about a celebrity couple, played by Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, whose clashing careers create rifts in their relationship.

Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi was awarded best screenplay for his three-hour adaptation of Haruki Murakami's "Drive My Car," which finds new depths in author's 40-page short story.

In another tie, special jury prizes were given to Nadav Lapid "Ahed's Knee" and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Memoria."

Jury president Spike Lee — the first Black person to hold that position in the festival's 74-year history — presided over a majority-female group that included French-Senegalese actor-director Mati Diop, American actor-filmmaker Maggie Gyllenhaal, Austrian director Jessica Hausner, French actor-helmer Mélanie Laurent, Brazilian helmer Kleber Mendonça Filho, French actor Tahar Rahim, South Korean actor Song Kang-ho and cult French singer Mylene Farmer.

Cannes' prestigious first-feature prize, the Camera d'Or, was awarded to Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic's "Murina," a Croatian coming-of-age story about a young woman negotiating her attraction to a stranger who arrives on her remote island. Selected by a special jury headed by Mélanie Thierry ("Tralala") from among 31 debut features across all sections of the festival, the Directors' Fortnight discovery was produced by Martin Scorsese.

Full list of prizes below:


Palme d'Or: "Titane"

Grand Prix — TIE: Asghar Farhadi, "A Hero" and Juho Kuosmanen's "Compartment No. 6"

Director: Leos Carax, "Annette"

Actor: Caleb Landry Jones, "Nitram"

Actress: Renate Reinsve, "The Worst Person in the World"

Jury Prize — TIE: Nadav Lapid "Ahed's Knee" and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Memoria"

Screenplay: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, "Drive My Car"


Camera d'Or: "Murina," Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic

Short Films Palme d'Or: "All the Crows in the World," Tang Yi

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