Cannes has a history of screening Hollywood blockbusters alongside headier art fare.
In 1993, festivalgoers thrilled to Sylvester Stallone dangling from a mountaintop in Renny Harlin’s Cliffhanger. In 1987, audiences swooned to Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey when Dirty Dancing earned a special screening. And in 1988, Ron Howard’s Willow closed out the 41st festival.
The tale, devised by George Lucas (who served as executive producer), follows a dwarf (Warwick Davis, whom Lucas had met on the set of Return of the Jedi) joined by a swordsman (Val Kilmer) for a quest to defeat an evil sorceress queen (Jean Marsh).
“We wanted to find a style of sword fighting that was different, and we came up with something that had elements of juggling in it,” Kilmer said. “I didn’t even know I could juggle.”
Released by MGM/UA, Willow was not the Star Wars-sized hit Lucas had hoped for, and sequels never materialized. Still, the film has drawn a loyal following over the years thanks to home video, and Disney, which now owns the rights, has announced a return to Willow’s enchanted kingdom in a Disney+ series, to be executive produced by Howard — who last appeared at Cannes in 2018 for a screening of his Solo: A Star Wars Story.
As for Kilmer, he’ll be at Cannes this year for Val, a doc about his long career and battle with cancer, which cost him his voice.