Steven Spielberg to Head 2013 Cannes Film Festival Jury

Mark Deming
Movie Talk

If the Cannes Film Festival were looking for a well-known American filmmaker to take part, they just hit the jackpot. Steven Spielberg has been confirmed to head up the award jury for the 2013 edition of the world's most illustrious film festival.

Giles Jacob, who is the president of the Cannes Festival, posted on the festival's website Thursday, "When this year I was told 'E.T., phone home,' I understood and immediately replied: 'At last!'"Jacob has been keen on having Spielberg on the Cannes jury for years, and the director agreed in principle two years ago, but his busy schedule had prevented him from taking part. This year, however, Spielberg's calendar finally aligned with Jacob's, and the director seems just as excited as Jacob about the development.

"It is an honor and a privilege to preside over the jury of a festival that proves, again and again, that cinema is the language of the world," Spielberg said in a statement released by the festival. "My admiration for the steadfast mission of the festival to champion the international language of movies is second to none. The most prestigious of its kind, the festival has always established the motion picture as a cross cultural and generational medium."

Held each year in the South of France, Cannes is better known for highlighting European cinematic fare than Hollywood blockbusters -- Michael Haneke's "Amour," which just won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, took the Grand Prix in 2012. But Spielberg is no stranger to the festival. His first theatrical feature, "The Sugarland Express," won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes in 1974, and in 1982, he brought "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" to Cannes for its world premiere. 1985's "The Color Purple" was also an official selection at the fest.

Spielberg succeeds Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti as the president of the awards jury. No word yet on who will be joining Spielberg on the award committee, but while he celebrated the international flavor of the event in his statement, some have suggested this could mean a more American spin than usual for the jury. Whatever else happens, this certainly eases the sting for Spielberg of "Lincoln" losing Best Director and Best Picture at the Oscars this week.