Among the competition titles: Gus Van Sant's "Sea of Trees," starring Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts; 1950's romantic drama "Carol" by Todd Haynes, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara; Denis Villeneuve's cartel thriller "Sicario" with Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin and Emily Blunt; Cannes regular Nanni Moretti's autobiographical drama "Mia madre," which co-stars John Turturro and opens Thursday in Italy; and fellow Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino's second foray into English-language filmmaking, "Youth," starring Rachel Weisz and Michael Caine.
Adding more star power, the festival will have out of competition screenings for the likes of Woody Allen's campus-set romantic dramedy "Irrational Man," starring Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, and Pete Docter's Pixar animated comedy "Inside Out," as well as a special screening of Natalie Portman's "A Tale of Love and Darkness." Allen has already premiered a dozen films on the Croisette, with "Midnight in Paris" kicking off the fest back in 2011, while Docter came to Cannes in 2009 with "Up" as the opening night selection.
Alongside the films by Haynes and Van Sant, the New York-set "Louder Than Bombs" by Norwegian auteur Joachim Trier ("Oslo," "August 31st") will bring more U.S. talent to the Croisette, with a cast that includes Jesse Eisenberg, Amy Ryan and Rachel Brosnahan. And Aussie director Justin Kurzel -- whose serial killer saga "The Snowtown Murders" played the Critics' Week in 2011 -- will debut in competition with a new adaptation of "Macbeth," starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.
One of the first films announced Thursday was director Asif Kapadia's documentary on late singer Amy Winehouse, which will get a midnight screening. Kapadia previously made the award-winning Formula One doc, "Senna," and will premiere "Amy" in Cannes before it gets a stateside release from A24.
Another returning filmmaker is "Kung Fu Panda" director Mark Osborne, who will screen the animated children's tale "The Little Prince," adapted from the famous book by Saint-Exupery and voiced by Rachel McAdams, James Franco and Cotillard. At the press conference, Fremaux remarked that the film offered up a new twist on the classic story, while proudly adding that author Saint-Exupery was from his hometown of Lyons.
Before Thursday, Fremaux had already announced two titles in the lineup. One is George Miller's highly anticipated fourth installment to the trilogy that made Mel Gibson famous, "Mad Max: Fury Road," starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, which Warner Bros. will begin rolling out worldwide the day it premieres at the festival in an out-of-competition slot. The other one is opening night pick "Standing Tall (La Tete haute)" by French actress-director Emmanuelle Bercot, which is a coming-of-age tale following a decade in the life of a problematic young man, with Catherine Deneuve playing a local judge. (Deneuve starred in Bercot's "On My Way," which was released in 2013 by Cohen Media Group.)
This is the first time a female-directed film has played opening night in Cannes since 1987, when Diane Kurys premiered her English-language romance "A Man in Love" in the same slot. As if to respond to recent criticism of its male-centric lineup, Cannes announced a new "Women in Motion" initiative alongside corporate partner Kering, with a series of conferences and events scheduled to take place at this year's festival, and prizes to be handed out to women filmmakers starting in 2016.
Cannes usually allots three competition slots to French filmmakers, though this year there are four, with two of them given to directors who have competed before: Femme auteur Maiwenn, who won the Jury Prize in 2011 for "Polisse," will screen her marriage chronicle "Mon roi," starring Vincent Cassel, Bercot and Louis Garrel, while "A Prophet" director Jacques Audiard will return with the gritty street saga "Dheepan," about a Tamil refugee who finds himself in the tough suburbs of Paris. Writer-director Stephane Brize will play competition for the first time with "La loi du marche," with Vincent Lindon, a regular in his films, starring as an unemployed 50-year-old man who finds a job as a supermarket security guard and then faces a major moral dilemma. And Valerie Donzelli, who broke out at the Critics' Week in 2011 with "Declaration of War, "will present her romance "Marguerite and Julien," starring Anais Demoustier and co-writer Jeremie Elkaim, and based on an unproduced screenplay by Francois Truffaut.
One French title conspicuously absent from competition is Arnaud Desplechin's "My Golden Years," which is already scheduled for local release on May 20. When asked about this during the press conference, Fremaux said that there were still a few slots left, offering up the possibility that the film could still be included in competition. But he added that Desplechin had already competed several times in previous years -- most recently in 2013 with "Jimmy P," starring Del Toro -- and that this year's selection was making way for new French talent, with Brize and Donzelli entering the competition for the first time.
Three Italian directors were tipped to appear in the lineup this year, and all have been included in competition, marking a strong Croisette presence of new films from the Boot. Palme d'Or laureate Nanni Moretti will screen his autobiographical drama "Mia madre," which opens theatrically today in Italy; Paolo Sorrentino will premiere "Youth," with an all-star cast including Michael Caine, Rachel Weisz, Jane Fonda and Harvey Keitel; and "Gomorrah" director Matteo Garrone will debut "A Tale of Tales," starring Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel and John C. Reilly.
Asian titles this year are represented by three auteurs returning to competition: Chinese director Jia Zhangke -- whose "A Touch of Sin" won the screenplay award in 2013 -- will screen his generation-spanning drama," Mountains May Depart"; 2013 Jury Prize recipient Hirokazu Koreeda will premiere "Our Little Sister," adapted from the manga by Akimi Yoshida; and Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-Hsien will screen "The Assassin" -- his first feature to show in Cannes since 2007's "Flight of the Red Balloon." There were rumors that Hou's foray into martial arts filmmaking would not be ready in time, and Fremaux confirmed that the director was working up to the last minute to get his cut in.
The strong Asian presence is confirmed in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, with two new works from India -- "Fly Away Solo" by Neeraj Ghawyan and Chauthi Koot ("The Fourth Route") by Gurvinder Singh -- showing alongside Japanese auteur Kyoshi Kurosawa's "Journey to the Shore" and Korean director Seung-Uk Oh's "The Shameless." Speaking about the two Indian movies, Fremaux added that they come neither from Bollywood nor the classic tradition, but rather from a new wave of local filmmaking that has appeared in recent years.
While films both Stephen Frears and Ben Wheatley were tipped to appear in competition, there are no British directors currently slated to play the Croisette, though additional titles can still be added in the next few weeks. There is however a UK production, with Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (who won the Un Certain Regard prize in 2009 for the Oscar-nominated "Dogtooth") screening "The Lobster" in competition. Commenting on the film, which stars Colin Farrell, Lea Seydoux and Rachel Weisz, Fremaux quipped that it comes from "the tradition of those films where one is not meant to understand everything that happens."
Fremaux said that the films unveiled Thursday amount to 90 percent of the final lineup, adding that the selection was taking risks. Overall, selectors screened 1,854 films this year, he said. He also argued that it was not "always the same people in the festival," adding: "It's not easy to find the new auteurs." Eight first films are part of the lineup this year, he highlighted, including Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes' Holocaust drama, "Son of Saul" -- which Fremaux boasted will be screened in competition on 35mm (the format it was shot in). Fremaux added that Nemes previously worked as an assistant director to Bela Tarr.
There are several first-time directors showing in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, as well as returning filmmakers who have played Cannes in previous years. Romanian auteur Cornelieu Porumboiu, who won the section's jury prize in 2009 with "Policer, Adjective," will premiere his latest work, "The Treasure." French director Alice Winocour will screen her homefront drama, "Maryland," after premiering her debut feature Augustine in the Critics' Week in 2012. The film stars Diane Kruger and Matthias Schoenaerts, and marks the fourth feature by a female French director -- after works by Maiwenn, Donzelli and Bercot -- to be included in the official lineup this year. The U.S. presence in Un Certain Regard will be represented by Roberto Minervini, who showed "Stop the Pounding Heart" as a special screening two years ago.
As previously announced, Joel and Ethan Coen will chair the Cannes festival jury this year. Isabella Rossellini was recently announced as the president of the Un Certain Regard jury. Lescure opened the press conference by touting the festival's partners and saying he was "happy as a child" that the Coens were leading the jury. He then showed a short made by the Coens entitled "World Cinema," which played Cannes in 2007 as part of the omnibus movie "To Each His Own Cinema." The short, which stars Josh Brolin as a Texas cowboy sampling an art-house theater for the first time, drew plenty of laughs at the packed press conference.
While the majority of competition and non-competition titles are being divulged Thursday morning, additional films will be added to the lineup in the coming two weeks. This has also been the case in previous years, with Fremaux leaving a few slots open for late arrivals. He hinted at the possibility of an additional French film, stating that he could have picked seven of them for the main competition.
"The selection process is a journey that takes us around the world," Fremaux said. "And we often come back with surprises that we could have never pictured showing."
Speculation has abounded in recent weeks about which films will ultimately vie for the fest's coveted Palme d'Or prize this year. In 2014, Winter Sleep, directed by Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, won the top festival honor. Fremaux and his team played their cards especially close this year, with many directors, producers and sales agents waiting until the last minute learn which movies were chosen.
Lescure is serving his first year after Gilles Jacob stepped down in 2014. The festival this year runs May 13-May 24 on the Croisette.
Here is the full lineup:
Standing Tall (La Tete Haute), Emmanuelle Bercot
Carol, Todd Haynes
Macbeth, Justin Kurzel
Dheepan, Jacques Audiard
La Loi du March, Stephane Brize
Marguerite and Julien, Valerie Donzelli
The Tale of Tales, Matteo Garrone
The Assassin, Hou Hsiao Hsien
Mountains May Depart, Jia Zhangke
Our Little Sister, Hirokazu Koreeda
The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos
Mon roi, Maiwenn
Mia Madre, Nanni Moretti
Son of Saul, Laszlo Nemes
Youth, Paulo Sorrentino
Louder Than Bombs, Joachim Trier
Sea of Trees, Gus Van Sant
Sicario, Denis Villeneuve
Out of Competition
Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller
Inside Out, Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Irrational Man, Woody Allen
The Little Prince, Mark Osborne
A Tale of Love and Darkness, Natalie Portman
Asphalte, Samuel Benchetrit
Panama, Pavle Vuckovic
Amnesia, Barbet Schroeder
Hayored Lema'Ala, Elad Keidan
Oka, Souleymane Cisse
Amy, Asif Kapadia
Office, Hong Won-Chan
Un Certain Regard
Madonna, Shin Suwon
Maryland, Anna Winocour
The Fourth Direction, Gurvinder Singh
Masaan (Fly Away Solo), Neeraj Ghaywan
Hruter (Rams), Grimur Hakonarson
Kishibe No Tabi (Journey to the Shore), Kiyoshi
Je Suis Un Soldat (I Am a Soldier), Laurent Larivere
Zvizdan (The High Sun), Dalibor Matanic
The Other Side, Roberto Minervini
One Floor Below, Radu Muntean
Shameless, Oh Seung-Uk
The Chosen Ones, David Pablos
Nahid, Ida Panahandeh
The Treasure, Corneliu Porumboiu