The director, who was serving as president of the all-star jury, was invited to name the winner of the evening’s “first prize” at the beginning of the ceremony by host Doria Tillier.
However, he got confused and seemed to think Tillier was alluding to the top award, known as the Palme d’Or, which is usually announced last.
“Can you tell me which prize is the first prize,” Tillier asked Lee, to which he replied: “Yes, I can.”
Standing up, he said: “The film that won the Palme d’Or is Titane.”
Lee’s co-jury member, the actor Mélanie Laurent, reached out her hand to touch the BlacKkKlansman director’s arm, visibly in shock at the blunder.
Tahar Rahim, who recently starred in The Mauritanian and BBC series The Serpent, could be seen explaining what had happened to Lee and, showing him that everything was alright, put his arms around him in support.
The moment was an echo of the Oscars 2018 gaffe, in which Dunaway and Beatty incorrectly announced La La Land as the winner of Best Picture when the award had actually gone to Moonlight.
You can watch the moment below:
Later in the ceremony, Lee almost announced the Palme d’Or winner prematurely again despite Sharon Stone being the one booked to do so.
“In 63 years of life, I’ve learned that people get a second chance, this is my second chance,” he said, adding: “I apologise for messing up. It took a lot of suspense out of the night I understand, it wasn’t on purpose.”
He was interrupted by Tillier, who invited Stone on stage to make the announcement.
Reflecting on the blunder, Lee said: “I’m a big sports fan. I’m like the guy at the end of the game who misses a free throw or a kick. No apologies. The people of Titane said, ‘Forget about it, Spike.’ That means a lot to me.”
Cannes’ latest Palme d’Or winner is French director Julia Ducournau’s follow-up to Raw. Ducournau is the second woman to ever win the prize following Jane Campion, who won for The Piano in 1993.
Find the full list of winners below:
Palme d’Or: Titane
Grand Prix: (tie) A Hero and Compartment No 6
Jury Prize: (tie): Ahed’s Knee and Memoria
Best Actress: Renate Reinsve, The Worst Person in the World
Best Actor: Caleb Landry Jones, Nitram
Best Director: Leos Carax, Annette
Best Screenplay: Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Drive My Car
Camera d’Or: Murina by Antoneta Alamat KusijanoviÄ
Short Film Palme d’Or:Tian Xia Wu Ya by Tang Yi
Special Jury Mention for Short Film: Ceu de Agosto by Jasmin Tenucci