Michelle Yeoh Recalls ‘Emotional’ 2002 Cannes Jury Experience with Films Like ‘The Pianist’ and ‘Irréversible’

Michelle Yeoh is looking back on watching everything in competition at Cannes all at once while serving on the jury under then-president David Lynch in 2002.

Yeoh reflected on the particularly “emotional” year of films, ranging from Gaspar Noé’s jarringly violent sexual thriller “Irréversible” to Michael Moore’s school shooting documentary “Bowling for Columbine” and films like Olivier Assayas’ sex-trafficking mystery “Demonlover” and the Dardennes’ drama “The Son.” The Palme d’Or was eventually awarded to “The Pianist,” the harrowing Holocaust drama starring Adrien Brody and directed by Roman Polanski — who both went on to win Oscars.

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Yeoh, who was fresh off of her iconic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” role, served as part of the 2002 Cannes jury at a time when she admitted she may have been “too young” to refrain from getting “too emotional” watching the heavier films back-to-back.

“It is very intense, because you’re watching two or three movies a day, and the movies are not lighthearted,” Yeoh told The New York Times. “Sometimes they are three hours long and not always easy to process.”

She added, “A couple of us felt kind of emotional toward the end, where you feel as an artist yourself, you are processing what you’re watching and going through these roller-coaster rides. Whew! It was a little too emotional. At that time, I was still maybe too young and had not enough experience, but since then, I don’t think I’ve agreed to do another jury.”

Yeoh credited jury president Lynch for keeping fellow jury members grounded across the programming.

“David is always calm, and it set the tone,” Yeoh said.

Sharon Stone, Christine Hakim, Régis Wargnier, Bille August, Raúl Ruiz, Claude Miller, and Walter Salles rounded out the 2002 Cannes jury for the official selection.

And if Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux approached Yeoh to serve on the jury again, she assured, “If Thierry asks me to do anything, I’d do it. That is a very simple answer.”

This year’s Cannes jury is comprised of Paul Dano, Brie Larson, Moroccan director Maryam Touzani, French actor Denis Ménochet, British-Zambian screenwriter and director Rungano Nyoni, Afghan author Atiq Rahimi, Argentinian director and screenwriter Damián Szifrón, and “Titane” director Julia Ducournau, with two-time Palme d’Or winner Ruben Östlund as jury president.

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