The actor Benicio Del Toro is at the Festival de Cannes for the fourth time, having presented The Usual Suspects in 1995, Sin City in 2005 and Che in 2008. But this time, he comes in a novel role, that of Jury Member.
In 2008, you won the award for Best Actor for Che at the Festival. This year, you will be awarding the prices. How do you feel about being a member of the jury?
It’s great! I’ve never done something like this. It’s the first time that I’ve been a member of any jury. So it’s interesting, especially when it’s about films. It’s like a judge in gymnastics who gives you grading stuff! Just the fact that you’re doing it is an accomplishment itself. When you’re in movies, one of the most exciting things that can happen is having a movie in Competition in Cannes, it’s a great recognition.
What’s the main reason you love cinema ?
The story, the different elements that combine in it, meaning all the arts. Why am I in it? By accident. I didn’t grow up in a movie family.
Is there any event or film that you saw young that you particularly remember?
I don’t know if there’s just one thing, a collection maybe. Storytelling is one of the reasons I like cinema. One of the things about the Festival is that there are so many countries being represented, so many different ways of looking at how you tell a story from different points of view, influenced by different cultures and different artists. That’s interesting in cinema. That is exciting.
In your opinion, just how far can cinema go? Can it change things or can it influence people?
Well, I don’t know if it changes things. Definitely, it influences people, whether it is in a personal way, or just as entertainment. How many times have we seen a movie about a person, a two hour biography, and we know the story from the movie? We don’t know the whole story, we know that particular story. And that’s the image that you create in your head. It’s like the Che movie, we always felt like people know a lot about him, but actually they didn’t, that’s why we wanted to tell it. So I think you can definitely learn. But I don’t think it changes much. It’s hard to tell. Time will tell…
Can you remember one film that really influenced you?
There are many films that have influenced me. You can take a movie like Kurosawa, Red Beard. That movie says a lot about life, about trying to do the right thing. So it can influence you in a personal way, like giving you a sense of hope, optimism. This movie does that! It influences the language. It reaches out to people. I just don’t know if they change. It’s many different things that go to change the big picture.
In Traffic, the subject is drugs, and 3 countries are involved. It’s a film that went all around the world. Is it a way to inform people, even if it’s a fiction?
It’s information, more than just entertainment. Yes, definitely.
You know, the problem of drugs is still around. It’s not as if this movie changed the problem but it does bring awareness. It goes in waves, and Traffic was part of that moment and time.
In Traffic, Michael Douglas’ character learns a lot about drugs. Understanding drugs, addiction, and all the elements involved: Traffic did that.
It’s hard to tell, because you need more time and distance so you can see the influence.
They become part of subjects or documentation about humanity and sections of the world.
I don’t know if any movie or work of art can change things but it can be part of moments in history, paintings of periods.
It’s a complicated question. They don’t change anything but they represent, they document. And documents can bring awareness.
What are your projects after Cannes?