CANNES, France — Did Jodie Foster imagine 40 years ago on her first trip here as a 13-year-old for Taxi Driver that she’d someday return as a successful film director openly married to a woman?
That wasn’t a question asked of Foster at the news conference for her Money Monster hostage drama last week because… why?
With a lesbian-tinged horror-thriller like Neon Demon, featuring 18-year-old Elle Fanning and 31-year-old Jena Malone as hot “dangerous” models showering together about to open at Cannes this week—and Kristen Stewart here with two on-again, off-again girlfriends, 53-year-old Jodie seems about as scandalous as a librarian.
The prim, brainy Foster, who was busy using big words like “exigencies” in front of the foreign press last week, is suddenly the stodgy lesbian emeritus at a festival this year when being gay, bisexual, or otherwise gender fluid has never been hotter.
If you’re a female, that is.
Besides Foster, Stewart, 26, is at Cannes co-starring in two films, her ex-girlfriend Soko, 30, is here with her own movie in which she stars with self-described bisexual Lily-Rose Depp, 16, and Sarah Paulson’s upcoming new J.D. Salinger biopic is one of the buzziest acquisition titles at the festival.
This is also the year the Cannes lesbian drama goes from tender and worthy (like 2013’s Blue Is the Warmest Color or last year’s acclaimed Carol) to kinky with a side of psycho in the twisty Korean thriller The Handmaiden or Neon Demon.
The Guardian called Park Chan-wook’s often explicit period piece, about a con game that goes south when a maid (Kim Tae-Ri) falls for a beautiful, sexually inexperienced heiress (Kim Min-hee), a “lurid lesbian potboiler.”
It was a bit of a coincidence, then, that the same day the festival opened in Cannes last week, U.S. officials announced an investigation into discrimination against female directors in Hollywood.
Because the gay/bi-friendliness on and off screen at Cannes this year raises the question: Can you only be a successful openly gay or bi feature film star or director if you’re a woman, and if so, is that just another example of male-controlled bias in the industry?
Openly gay actor Matt Bomer arrived in Cannes Saturday night for the premiere of The Nice Guys, but the film stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe and Bomer is once again relegated to a supporting role.
“People are still more comfortable with gay or bisexual women,” says Alan Russell Carter, a longtime, L.A.-based entertainment industry expert. “That’s because it’s still straight men who are doing most of the hiring and green-lighting of films. Lesbians are in their comfort zone. Gay men not so much. Remember Rupert Everett.”
Trish Bendix, editor-in-chief of AfterEllen.com, a news site for gay and bisexual women in Hollywood, said it’s “way more acceptable” to be a gender-fluid actress in film than to be a gay male actor.
“People see it all as kind of a sexy spectacle and if you notice, the actresses who are out as gay or bi or the ones playing gay women in movies are all attractive and feminine,” Bendix told The Daily Beast. “You don’t see too many butch lesbians. It’s because a lot of the industry is still controlled by men and that plays into what they want to see.”
A veteran Parisian production assistant said the freedom actresses or female directors have to be openly gay or sexually fluid in the movie industry is reverse sexism.
“Cara Delevingne is always dating girls publicly but everyone assumes she’s straight because that’s the male fantasy,” said Karine, who did not want her last name used. “Even if you come out as a lesbian everyone assumes you still like guys. The white men who run the industry are still way too threatened by the idea of gay guys playing the leading man or holding hands together on the red carpet.”
In 2012, Stewart and her former Twilight co-star and boyfriend Robert Pattinson burned up the festival together with his Cosmopolis and her Snow White and the Huntsman. This year, Stewart has dominated a series of news cycles since the opening day—first solo and then reuniting with her onetime lover and former personal assistant Alicia Cargile at the premiere of American Honey Sunday afternoon.
Stewart, who has two movies premiering at Cannes, Café Society and Personal Shopper, raised the possibility of drama from the first day since her ex-girlfriend, the Goth-esque French singer-actress Soko is also here to promote her movie, The Dancer, in which she co-stars with Depp.
But Stewart “owned the Cannes Film Festival,” one outlet reported, when she showed up for the opening gala dinner in hot-tomboy chic: a white Chanel cropped T-shirt, a knit miniskirt, and $47 Vans sneakers.
She and Soko both attended the Chanel party Friday night but arrived and left separately without a confrontation, probably best given Soko’s now-deleted posts on social media alluding to someone being a “Fucking cheater.”
Jodie Foster’s wife of two years, photographer Alexandra Hedison, did not accompany her to the premiere of Money Monster but the couple happily posed together at the Vanity Fair party at the Hotel du Cap Saturday night.
“If you notice with Kristen and with Jodie, they either don’t talk about their sexuality or are very vague about it,” Bendix said. “They don’t lead with it and I can understand that. But it would be very hard for a famous (male) actor to do the same thing. It’s much easier for women. Also notice that if you google Kristen, half the news stories about her still mention Robert Pattinson. Even if you’re dating women, people will validate you based on the men you’ve been with.”
Does Bendix foresee a hot film actor suddenly coming out as gay or bisexual and flaunting his new boyfriend on the red carpet on the Croisette?
“I’m hopeful,” Bendix said. “I think what’s more likely to happen is that some closeted actor will star in such a great new film and decide to come out but it won’t be with an announcement. It’ll be more the way Kristen did it, a more of a living out, just being pictured with a partner, than saying something official.”