‘Anora’ Star Mikey Madison Talks Palme d’Or Win, Costumes and Her Closing Ceremony Chanel

CANNES — When “Anora” was announced as the winner of the coveted Palme d’Or Saturday night, all eyes were on its star Mikey Madison, who received rave reviews as the titular character and moral heart of the film.

Madison has no shortage of adjectives to describe the feeling of the film, which was directed by Sean Baker, winning the festival’s top prize: “completely euphoric, exhilarating, and just overall a beautiful experience,” she tells WWD.

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Anticipation was high before the red carpet. Cannes has the unusual practice to call casts and crews back to the festival — sometimes they jump on a plane, sometimes they are still in the South of France — the morning of the closing ceremony. One can make an educated guess about which films are going to be awarded by watching who hits the red carpet ahead of the announcements.

But as the awards ticked down — actors, screenplay, grand prize — and there was only the top prize left, the cast and crew knew, says Madison.

“When the second-to-last award was presented, we knew, and in that moment Sean and I immediately locked side eyes. [Producer] Samantha Quan was gripping my hand and was already tearing up,” she says. “I try not to have expectations, even before we were invited to the awards ceremony I was as happy as anyone could be. But for our film to win the Palme was an absolute honor.”

As the cast and crew gathered for official pictures after the big win, Madison was “giddy like a little kid, I couldn’t keep still,” she says. “Everyone was crying with happiness.”

It’s a magical way to close out your first Cannes.

Madison says she did a bit of expectation management before arriving at the festival. “When I was making the film, I didn’t even have it in my head that people were going to see it,” she says. “I’m just happy that people like it, that they’re watching it and that they get to see it on the big screen.”

What they’re seeing is Madison as a New York City stripper who marries the son of a Russian oligarch but doesn’t quite get her fairy tale ending. It’s darkly funny but not quite a rom-com, and a little bit too heartbreaking to be a romance.

Mikey Madison in her closing ceremony look.
Mikey Madison in her closing ceremony look.

Her portrayal of Anora, nicknamed Ani, received rave reviews and was an immediate breakout following the premiere in the second week of the festival.

Baker had followed Madison’s work through Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and the updated “Scream.” In fact, he saw that film on its opening weekend and reached out to her the next day to pitch her the idea of “Anora.”

They worked on the character for a year leading up to the shoot.

“I’ve never had that kind of experience with a director before,” she says. “He was very willing to just be open and really wanted to collaborate with me on that level. It was very unique and special.”

“Tangerine” and “The Florida Project” director Baker is known for his tender portrayal of those often overlooked.

“He’s just good at choosing actors who are able to bring those characters to life,” she says. “When I was reading the script, I had a different perception of how some of the characters would be and then these actors come in and bring them to life in a way that I would never have expected. So he’s also a really amazing casting director.”

To get into the character of a stripper, Madison did a lot of research about sex work, including reading books and going to strip clubs to observe the dancers and study how they commanded the room.

Andrea Werhun, author of the memoir “Modern Whore,” served as a consultant on the film. The former sex worker was open to sharing her experiences.

“I felt that she was someone Ani could relate to,” she says. “It was important for me to talk to real women that have a similar lived experience that Ani does.”

She had extensive dance training for the strip club scenes, and learned Russian as well as the accented New York lilt of modern youth in Brighton Beach and Brooklyn.

Telling the story also extends to the wardrobe of her character in the film. Costume designer Jocelyn Pierce worked on the film, but as Madison got to know her character over that year of prep, she went shopping in Brighton Beach, picking up items she knew Ani would love.

“There’s a pair of sparkly shoes that I wear throughout the whole film that I bought for [Ani],” she says. Madison made a Pintrest board of what she wanted for the character.

“A lot of times you don’t get to choose the costumes, but for this, because Sean really cared about my opinion and I felt very passionate about what she should wear and how she should look and present herself in certain situations, it was important for me to choose.

“Her style, she’s definitely putting on a show, and she dresses specifically to attract a certain kind of audience,” she says.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 25: Mikey Madison attends the Red Carpet of the closing ceremony at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 25, 2024 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Daniele Venturelli/WireImage)
Mikey Madison on the red carpet of the closing ceremony.

Madison has a more quiet, classic style. She’s been dressed by Chanel throughout the festival, from her pale pink tulle skirt and top combo from the spring 2024 haute couture collection at the premiere to her closing ceremony dress with three tiers of embroidered flowers and slight tulle flare.

The first look happened to be her all-time favorite color. “I appreciate Barbie pink, but I like a softer pink, more of a rose,” she says of selecting the shade.

“I like for clothes to tell a story. I like for something to feel emotional or to have a connection to something,” she said, explaining the tie-up further. “Chanel is very classic, timeless, and I think that this festival is also. So to me, it felt like the perfect fit.”

The whole experience has been “surreal” for the actress. “I’m processing a lot of it. I’m someone that, I’m not gonna have an immediate reaction to something. I take a long time to just think about it.”

The film has been acquired by Neon for U.S. distribution so should hit screens soon.

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