CANNES, France – French auteur filmmaker Claire Denis says the death of writer Denis Johnson spurred her into action to bring his novel Stars at Noon to the big screen.
Denis, who makes her Cannes competition return with the movie, had discussed the project with the American author and was shooting her space drama High Life when Johnson passed away in May 2017.
“When I read Stars at Noon I was so moved, so terribly moved that I wrote him and we met,” Denis, 76, told Reuters in Cannes ahead of the film’s world premiere.
“Sadly, he died while I was shooting High Life. And at that moment I thought, I cannot wait too long because life is so unpredictable. It has to be my next project because next time, maybe it’s me dead. So, let’s go!”
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the production back and scuppered Denis’ plans to reunite with her High Life lead Robert Pattinson. Instead, she cast British actor Joe Alwyn to star opposite Margaret Qualley and the film was shot in Panama in December 2021.
“The pandemic came and The Batman shooting took him almost two years and Robert was very tired. He said ‘I can’t’. And then I was lucky, so lucky, that Joe was interested,” said Denis.
“It was one of those situations which I’ve actually never had before when someone calls a week before and says ‘Would you join us next week?’ Except this time it was with Claire in Panama,” recalled Alwyn. “As much of a whirlwind as that is, it’s kind of impossible to say ‘no’.”
Set in modern-day Nicaragua, the film stars Qualley as young American journalist Trish who has fallen victim to local powerplay and becomes trapped in the country. A chance encounter with a mysterious English businessman (Alwyn) leads to a one-night stand that turns into a passionate love affair. As the Englishman’s safety is compromised, they try to make an escape from the country together.
Stars at Noon is screening in competition at the 75th Cannes Film Festival. Denis’ last Cannes competition entry was the 1988 film Chocolat. – Rappler.com