Rooney Mara, Emmanuelle Bercot share Cannes best actress award
In a surprise decision, the Cannes jury on Sunday split the best actress award between upcoming Hollywood star Rooney Mara and France's Emmanuelle Bercot, bypassing bookies' favourite Cate Blanchett.
Mara won plaudits for her part in 1950s lesbian love story "Carol", although many critics had focused on Blanchett who plays her older lover.
But the jury, led by American sibling directors Joel and Ethan Coen, decided the prize should go to the less showy performance delivered by Mara, a rising Hollywood star who leapt to fame with her performance in the title role in 2011's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo".
The 30-year-old shared the award with Bercot, who starred in a French movie, "Mon roi" (My King), in which a woman looks back on a destructive relationship with a deceitful but charming boyfriend played by Vincent Cassell.
The award capped a great fortnight in Cannes for Bercot, who also directed the opening film "Standing Tall", becoming only the second woman ever to open the world's premier movie fest.
"I feel joy sharing this with another actress because it's a bit too big for me to carry alone," said Bercot in her acceptance speech.
She thanked her director for choosing "an unknown at 46".
"Life can go beyond dreams, and tonight my life goes beyond all of my dreams," she said.
Mara's award was picked up by "Carol" director Todd Haynes, who said: "I'm a very lucky director... to have been able to work with actresses of the level of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara."
- 'Quiet confidence' -
Trade magazine Variety agreed last week that Mara stole "Carol" from her better-known co-star.
"Blanchett does another supernatural act of transformation, but Mara, in some ways, makes an even stronger impression," the magazine wrote.
"Mara gives her (character) a graceful self-possession, a quiet confidence, that holds the film's focus."
Mara first gained attention in 2011 when her transformation into a vengeful goth with a memorable array of piercings for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" won nominations at both the Golden Globes and Oscars.
She has not been short of work since, turning in a disturbing portrait of a drug-addled housewife in "Side Effects", a supporting role in Spike Jonze's "Her" and is taking on the role of "Tiger Lily" in next year's big-budget remake of the Peter Pan story.
Mara comes from a family deeply embedded in the world of American football. Her mother's family founded the Pittsburgh Steelers while her father's family founded the New York Giants.
Her sister, Kate Mara, is also an actress, best-known for her role as an ambitious journalist in TV show "House of Cards".
- 'Heartbreaking' performance -
French director Maiwenn's "Mon roi" received middling reviews, with many saying it dragged towards the end. But Bercot was lauded for her performance.
"Bercot is terrific, and so are the best scenes - raw, vivid, exposed - of conjugal warfare," wrote the Financial Times in its review.
Meanwhile, her opening film "Standing Tall" was a gritty drama about juvenile delinquency which she also co-wrote.
She rejected the idea that the choice of her film as festival opener was some sort of victory for female empowerment.
"It's the selection of the film that's an honour," she told reporters after the screening. "I don't feel I've been a given a gift because such a prestigious slot went to a woman."
Bercot has history with Cannes, launching her career here in 1997 when her short film "Les Vacances" won the Jury Prize.
Born in Paris on November 6, 1967, Bercot's work has often focused on adolescence and taboo relationships.
Her first feature, "Clement", told the story of a 30-something woman's relationship with a teenager, and played in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes.
She has worked with Maiwenn before, co-writing her celebrated "Polisse" (2011), in which she also played a detective looking into child abuse.
"What interests me about adolescence is that it's the age where everything is still in flux and nothing is fixed, so for fiction it is extremely rich," Bercot told AFP recently.
"Teenagers often express themselves in excess and I like to talk about, and film, excess."
© 2015 AFP