Forest Whitaker To Be Awarded Honorary Palme D'Or At Cannes

This month, the Cannes Film Festival will be celebrating its 75th anniversary. The fest's current highest honor, the Palme D'Or, was first awarded in 1955 to Delbert Mann's working-class romance "Marty," and has gone to, in recent years, "Titane," "Parasite," "Shoplifters," and "The Square." Honorary Palme D'Ors are not awarded every year, and are typically given to actors and filmmakers with an impressive body of work, but who have never been honored at Cannes otherwise. 

At the 2022 festival, as was reported in Deadline, actor and director Forest Whitaker will be honored with a Palme D'Or. Whitaker will only be the 14th person to receive the Honorary Palme since its inception in 2002. He will be the sixth American to be honored, following Jodie Foster, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Clint Eastwood, Jane Fonda, and Woody Allen. 

Whitaker's statement

Whitaker previously won Best Actor at Cannes for his performance as Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood's 1988 biopic "Bird." Whitaker also won an Academy Award in 2006 for his performance as Idi Amin in Kevin McDonald's "The Last King of Scotland." Most recently, Whitaker starred in the Aretha Franklin biopic "Respect," and produced the Oscar-nominated film "Passing" directed by Rebecca Hall. 

His last film as director was "First Daughter" in 2004. He will be presenting the new film "For the Sake of Peace," a film about the history of conflict in South Sudan which he also produced.

At the awards, Whitaker was humbled and deeply honored, giving the following speech: 

"Thirty-four years ago, attending Cannes for the first time changed my life, and assured me that I'd made the right decision to devote myself to finding connectivity in humanity through film. It's always a privilege to return to this beautiful festival to both screen my own work, and to be inspired by many of the world's greatest artists. And I feel incredibly honored to be celebrated as part of the Festival's momentous 75th anniversary."

Pierre Lescure, the president of the Cannes festival, was naturally effusive: 

"He is this young actor that Clint Eastwood revealed in Bird and that man who broadens his view of the world to offer it to those who suffer and those who fight. The full honors belong to Whitaker. This Palme d'or is a gesture of gratitude from the world of cinema."

Thierry Frémaux, the director of the Institut Lumière as well as of Cannes, said the following:

"When welcoming Forest Whitaker to Cannes, I was able to meet and admire an artist with intense charisma and a luminous presence. His filmography is both dazzling and fully accomplished ... I also observed closely his convictions as a man, and the attention he carries for the young generation ... [He] contributes to making it a better place through his faith in a better world and his commitment."

Whitaker is an intense but nimble actor, who can be warm and inviting, desperate and overwhelming, and sometimes outright terrifying. He has appeared in small indie films, Hollywood prestige pictures, and several blockbusters (Whitaker appeared in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" and "Black Panther").