Award-winning director Steven Spielberg will head up this year’s Cannes Film Festival jury, the organisers announced on Thursday, just days after he missed out on his third best-director Oscar.
Spielberg, 66, one of the most powerful and respected film-makers in Hollywood, said he was flattered by the appointment.
“The memory of my first Cannes Film Festival, nearly 31 years ago with the debut of E.T., is still one of the most vibrant memories of my career,” he said in a statement.
“It is an honour and a privilege to preside over the jury of a festival that proves, again and again, that cinema is the language of the world,” he added.
The broad reach of Spielberg’s film-making made him an obvious choice to head up the jury of one of the world’s most influential film festivals, the organisers said.
Ever since E.T. screened at Cannes in 1982, “I’ve often asked Steven to be jury president, but he’s always been shooting a film,” said the festival’s president, Gilles Jacob.
“So when this year I was told ‘E.T., phone home,’ I understood and immediately replied: ‘At last!’”
The festival is one of the highlights in the international cinema calendar and this year runs between May 15 and May 26.
Spielberg’s work cuts across a broad spectrum “between entertainment films and serious reflections on history, racism and the human condition”, festival organisers said in the statement.
“Because of his films, and the many causes he holds dear, he’s year-in year-out the equal of the very greatest Hollywood filmmakers.
“We are very proud to count him among us.”
Spielberg has directed more than 50 films in his five-decade career, including pop culture touchstones such as “Jaws,” “E.T.,” “Indiana Jones” and “Jurassic Park.”
His movies — a canny mix of big-budget, effects-laden blockbusters and intensely personal projects — have raked in over $4 billion at the box office, according to Boxofficemojo.
He has presented several films at Cannes, though most of them were not in competition. His 1974 film “The Sugarland Express” won the best screenplay prize at the festival.
His career took off and he became a household name in 1975 with his second big-screen movie, the risky shark thriller “Jaws,” which entered into pop culture lore and launched the tradition of the summer blockbuster.
A string of mega-successes followed: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977); “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), with Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones; “Poltergeist” and “E.T.” in 1982; and the dinosaur epic “Jurassic Park” (1993).
But it was not until he turned to darker subjects that he won his first Oscars.
He won his first best director award in 1994 for “Schindler’s List”, based on a true story about a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a 1,000 Jewish workers from the Holocaust.
The film, which starred Liam Neeson in the title role, picked up seven Oscars, including the coveted best picture.
The movie was part of a string of projects close to his heart, which also included “The Color Purple” (1985), with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey; “Amistad” (1997), about the slave trade; and 2005′s “Munich.”
He won his second best director Oscar in 1998 for the WWII drama “Saving Private Ryan”, starring Tom Hanks, which won four other Oscars.
His last two projects have had disappointing performances at the Oscars.
“War Horse” (2011) was nominated for six Oscars, but won none.
This year’s “Lincoln” lead the nominations ahead of Sunday’s Oscar ceremony with 12 nods, but took home only two prizes, one of which was Daniel Day-Lewis’s record third best actor prize.
But the film lost out in the picture category to “Argo”, while Ang Lee beat Spielberg to best director for “The Life of Pi”.