"I apologized, they said, 'Forget about it, Spike,'" Spike Lee said after accidentally announcing Julia Ducournau's Titane as the Palme d'Or winner early in the Cannes Film Festival ceremony

By Glenn Garner
July 18, 2021 12:32 PM
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Jury president Spike Lee, Jury members Tahar Rahim, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jessica Hausner and Mélanie Laurent on stage during the closing ceremony of the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival on July 17, 2021 in Cannes, France.
Credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty

Spike Lee got this year's Cannes Film Festival awards ceremony off to a rousing start.

The jury president, 64, mistakenly announced the winner of the top honor, the Palme d'Or, early in Saturday's ceremony. After a miscommunication with the host, French actress Toria Dillier, Lee prematurely revealed Titane by French filmmaker Julia Ducournau as the recipient of this year's Palme d'Or.

Although the audience gasped at the mix-up and Lee was somewhat embarrassed, there were no hard feelings from Ducournau, who's only the second female filmmaker to ever earn the esteem, after Jane Campion's The Piano won in 1993.

Lee later apologized, saying he "messed up, simple as that. And I was very specific to speak to the people of Titane ... I apologized, they said, 'Forget about it, Spike.' So, that means a lot to me." His fellow jury member Maggie Gyllenhaal had his back, saying that the error "was like an injection of humanity into the middle of the ceremony," according to Deadline.

French actress and Mistress of Ceremony of the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival Doria Tillier (L) smiles as US director and Jury President of the 74th Cannes Film Festival Spike Lee (C) speaks to French actress, director and member of the Jury of the Official Selection Melanie Laurent (R) during the closing ceremony of the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on July 17, 2021.
Credit: Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty

Titane centers on a young woman who has an unusual relationship with cars after surviving an accident as a child. Although critics were divided on the film from the director of Raw, the jury — which also consists of directors Mati Diop, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Jessica Hausner, actors Mélanie Laurent, Tahar Rahim, Song Kang-ho and singer/songwriter Mylène Farmer — voted to award the film the top prize.

Lee almost rushed the announcement again later in the event, before Sharon Stone was scheduled to present the award.

"In 63 years of life I've learned that people get a second chance, this is my second chance," he prefaced. "I apologize for messing up. It took a lot of suspense out of the night I understand, it wasn't on purpose." Luckily, Dillier stopped him before Stone took the stage.

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The BlacKkKlansman director was named jury president of the Cannes Film Festival last January, becoming the first Black person to head the prestigious panel.

"When I got the call…I was shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same time," Lee said at the time. "I'm honored to be the first person of the African diaspora (USA) to be named President of the Cannes Jury and of a main film festival."

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