Margaret Qualley Talks ‘Surreal’ Experience of Pulling Double Duty at Cannes with ‘Kinds of Kindness’ and ‘The Substance’

“Surreal.” That’s the best way Margaret Qualley can sum up her experience at the Cannes Film Festival this year, as one of the only actors to star in not one, but two films premiering in competition — Yorgos Lanthimos’ bizarre black comedy “Kinds of Kindness” and Coralie Fargeat’s feminist body horror thriller “The Substance.”

This is Qualley’s third time at Cannes. For her first, in 2012, she walked the red carpet with her mother, Andie MacDowell; the second was in 2022, where she starred opposite Joe Alwyn in Claire Denis’ “Stars at Noon,” making her Cannes debut as an actor.

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“I’m the luckiest person,” Qualley told Variety about her various experiences at the festival. “First time was a baby. I was deer in the headlights. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself or my life or how to do it.”

On that second trip, as a rising star and Chanel ambassador (and newly engaged to now-husband Jack Antonoff), she felt much more confident. Plus there was the Denis factor.

“I absolutely adore Claire. She was a fearless leader in the whole thing. Having her to look up to and lead the way was absolutely spectacular,” Qualley added. “Now with these two movies — I just feel super lucky and am trying to enjoy every single step of the way.”

For this trip to Cannes, Qualley donned a handful of couture Chanel designs and high fashion jewelry for the “Kinds of Kindness” and “The Subtance” press events. For premieres, she donned two pastel-hued dresses from the SS’24 haute couture collection and vintage head jewelry from the 1930s.

“I feel so lucky to work with them. It makes me feel like a like princess. … I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful dress,” Qualley said. “[Chanel creative director] Virginie Viard just outdid herself every single time. I’m a big fan. It’s no different than being a fan of Yorgos and being in a Yorgos movie.”

And Qualley loves a good director. “That sets the tone for everything,” she explained, speaking of the Greek filmmaker, who she’d previously collaborated with on “Poor Things” last year. “It’s really nice to know someone as you’re going into the process, and I love working with people who know better than I do.”

When Qualley sat down with Variety during the festival, only “Kinds of Kindness” had made its premiere, garnering 4.5 minutes of applause from the delighted crowd. Then, on Sunday night, “The Subtance” blew the roof off the Palais with an 11-minute standing ovation.

“It’s a really surreal feeling,” Qualley said of having 2000 people stand and clap while a camera gets close-up footage of your reaction. “You don’t feel much. You’re just like, ‘What face do I make?’ You feel a lot and nothing. Regardless, it’s very special to have a movie at Cannes. It’s very special to have a movie in that theater.“

Watch the full interview above as Qualley digs deeper into how she wove her three “Kinds of Kindness” characters together and discusses her “Substance” role with Demi Moore.

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