Cannes 2024: Meeting with Sean Baker, Palme d’Or for Anora

Cannes 2024: Meeting with Sean Baker, Palme d’Or for Anora

Cannes interview with the American director, awarded for his trashy fairy tale about a New York stripper and a rich Russian kid.

Wednesday May 22, the day after the screening ofAnorathe director of Tangerine, The Florida Project And Red Rocketan empathetic explorer of the America of the marginalized, debriefed us on his new film, which ultimately won the Palme d'Or a few days later.

Premiere: Sean, at the screening ofAnora, we could see in the room Abel Ferrara, Gaspar Noé… Are they fans of your work? Friends ?

Sean Baker: Now they are friends, yes! But what's really great is that they are influences. I'm sure Abel sees his DNA all over Anora. When I film the character of Toros driving his car, for example, it comes straight from Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant. It's surreal to imagine that these guys who had such an influence on me are here, in Cannes, watching my film… I hope they liked it!

You wrote the film for actress Mikey Madison, who we saw in the series Better Thingsthe fifth Scream or Once upon a time… in Hollywood. Was it her or nothing?

Absolutely. I was really able to involve him in the process of creatingAnora. We live not far from each other in Los Angeles. When we got to know each other, she told me that her favorite film is Possession, which immediately made me understand that we had similar sensitivities. I had never worked with such an involved actress. Realize: she did three months of pole-dancing training for 20 seconds on screen. 20 seconds! That's crazy. She learned Russian, and to speak with a New York accent…

Why she ?

I discovered it in Once upon a time… in Hollywood . She stole every scene she was in. I loved the movie, but when she showed up, towards the end, I was like, “Who is this girl?” I went back to watch the film twice in a row, just to watch her scenes again. Then, with my wife (Samantha Quan, producer ofAnora), we saw her in Screamand was able to see that she really had a very wide palette.

Our Anora review

She looks very different in real life from what she projects on screen, this fierce and explosive side that you exploit to the fullest in Anora

Yes, she is very reserved, very polite. She's an observer. She doesn't have this New York attitude…but she understands it. When it comes to fighting in a movie, she goes for it!

In the end credits, you salute the Spanish director Jesus Franco and the actress Soledad Miranda…

Yes, I was thinking in particular of the two films they made together, Vampyros Lesbos And Crimes in ecstasy. The way Soledad Miranda was filmed there, the way she inspired every shot, that's what I wanted to do with Mikey. In fact, it was Mikey who dictated the style of the film. I showed him these two films very early in the preparation. Other things, too, like The Scorpio Woman or some Maurice Pialat.

You were at the Directors’ Fortnight a few years ago with The Florida Project and since Red Rocketyou are a filmmaker who shows his films in competition… Do you experience this as a progression?

Absolutely ! Even before that, it took me a while to get accepted into American festivals. I started with films made in my area, it took me a while to be selected at Sundance. It’s been a really slow climb. But being in competition at Cannes? Competing with people like Coppola and Cronenberg? Wow! It's a dream come true.

We sometimes think of the Safdie brothers' cinema in front of Anora. Do you feel like you're part of a generation of American filmmakers, or are you paving your way alone?

It's weird, because all my peers are ten years younger than me. Les Safdie, Ari Aster… It must be said that I completely ruined my twenties because of drugs! I'm still on drugs, that said, but they're not hard drugs anymore… It took me ten years longer than the others to find a place for myself. In reality, I am from the generation of PTA and Tarantino. But it is less a generation that we are talking about here than a culture. I don't want to stay alone in my corner, I want to stay connected to this culture. For example, there is a whole vein of autofiction in New York at the moment which is bubbling, very indie. And things are also happening in Los Angeles. I must say that Quentin did a lot for me, he supported my films by showing them in his cinema, the New Beverly. I hope he likes Anora. There is a lot of pulp inside.

Anoraby Sean Baker, with Mikey Madison, Mark Eydelshteyn, Yura Borisov… Coming soon to the cinema.

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