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Sean Penn Seems Poised For A Cannes Appearance, But Is It With 'Gangster Squad' Or Something Else?

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by Oliver Lyttelton
April 24, 2012 2:54 PM
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Update: Looks like Penn will be in town to attend a fundraising gala, Haiti: Carnival in Cannes, for a cause close to his heart.

The Cannes line-up, announced last week, is notable for a few things, among them a distinct lack of big studio fare. Even in a year when more American movies have been selected for competition than in recent memory, none come from the big studios (though indie arms Fox Searchlight and Focus Features both have a presence). Indeed, Hollywood have used the festival to launch films like "Ocean's Thirteen," "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," "Up," "Kung-Fu Panda 2," "Robin Hood" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," but this year the sole offering has been the less-than-enticing "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted."

However, even though the line-up has already been announced, it's possible that we may yet see a big studio movie on the Croisette.

A Twitter account that seemingly belongs to Thierry Fremaux, the festival's big cheese, wrote early this morning that "Content de retrouver bientot Sean Penn a Cannes, et dans un de ses meilleurs roles...", which translates roughly as "Happy to have Sean Penn back in Cannes soon, and in one of his best roles." Suffice it to say, that's a comment that stops the average Cannes-obsessed cinephile in their tracks.

And although there's no confirmed proof that the Twitter account actually belongs to Fremaux, the generally plugged in Cédric Succivalli, the man behind the On The Croisette Twitter feed, told us Cannes Film Festival President Gilles Jacob believed Fremaux's account was legit. So we asked Jacob directly ourselves, if the Penn report was true, and he replied, "Yes it's true that he will be there and we cannot do anything but applaud (congratulate) him. Anyway, I salute the man and the artist." Which seems like pretty damn good confirmation that some kind of Sean Penn appearance is going down in the South of France next month.

The actor only has one film in the can, Ruben Fleischer's Warner Bros crime epic "The Gangster Squad," in which the actor plays legendary L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen, who faces off an elite crew of cops played by Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Pena and Robert Patrick, while the impressive cast also includes Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, Mireille Enos, Frank Grillo, Josh Pence and Sullivan Stapleton, among others.

"The Gangster Squad" was recently bumped from its October release slot by Ben Affleck's "Argo," which some took as a sign of trouble, but could it have been that an inclusion at Cannes meant that Warners' release plans for the film changed? It'd certainly be a coup for the picture, which has more than enough star wattage, not least Cannes favorite Penn, who's had three films in the last two festivals ("Fair Game," "This Must Be The Place" and "The Tree of Life").

If "The Gangster Squad" does appear on the Croisette, it's unlikely to be in competition (there's already 22 films in the main line-up, against 20 last year), and Un Certain Regard, which does have a few slots remaining, doesn't seem like a natural fit for this kind of principally commercial picture (we've read the script, and the tone is closer to "The Untouchables" than "L.A. Confidential"), so some kind of special screening seems most likely.

It's worth being a little cautious at this point, however. It's possible that Penn has some kind of secret project completed, or that he's got some kind of unheralded cameo in one of the films accepted at Cannes this year, but the latter seems doubtful. It could be that Fremaux means that Penn will be serving on a jury, such as the vacant chair for the Camera D'Or (although it should be said that Penn was the main jury president in 2008, so it's unlikely he'd return in a lesser role).  Either way, it appears that Penn's probably already got his hotel booked at this point. Let's see how this one develops.

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