Selena Gomez Weeps as ‘Emilia Pérez’ Earns Biggest Cannes Standing Ovation So Far at 9 Minutes

“Emilia Pérez,” a Spanish-language musical drama starring Zoe Saldaña, Selena Gomez and Karla Sofía Gascón, has earned the biggest standing ovation of this year’s Cannes Film Festival so far.

Gomez wiped away tears as the Palais clapped for a full nine minutes, accompanied by plenty of hooting, whistling and cheering. During the standing ovation, director Jacques Audiard waved his hat at the balcony as stars Saldaña and Édgar Ramírez shared an emotional hug. There was huge applause for Gascón, who stars in the film as a drug cartel leader who seeks gender-affirming surgery.

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In the film, from Palme d’Or winner Audiard, Saldaña stars as Rita, an “overqualified and undervalued” lawyer, whose firm is more inclined to help criminals than seek justice. She finds an unexpected way out when a feared drug cartel leader Manitas (Gascón) recruits her to aid him in surreptitiously completing a sex change operation to become the woman he’s always wanted to be. Gomez plays his unsuspecting wife. In an exclusive interview with Variety, Audiard described the movie as an “opera libretto in four acts,” as the actors break out into original songs to advance the plot.

The filmmaker is a regular at the Cannes Film Festival, winning the Palme d’Or in 2015 for “Deephan.” His first film, 1994’s “Watch the Men Fall,” was selected for Critics’ Week at Cannes and went on to win three César awards, including best first work. The French filmmaker has had a total of six films in official selection, including “A Prophet,” “Of Rust and Bone,” “The Olympiads” and, now “Emilia Pérez.”

It was neither Saldaña nor Gomez’s first time ascending the famed red stairs to the Grand Theatre Lumiere, but it was a major moment for Gascón, a trans actor and rising star from Madrid. (Saldaña made her Cannes debut with 2013’s “Blood Ties” from Guillaume Canet, while Gomez starred in Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die” in 2019.)

“Emilia Pérez” is among the buzziest films and packages for sale at Cannes, alongside Ali Abbasi’s Donald Trump movie “The Apprentice” and the Pamela Anderson-starring “Last Showgirl.” In addition to competing for Audiard’s second Palme d’Or, the film is also eligible to win the Queer Palm, which recognizes titles dealing with LGBTQ themes and is award by a jury presided over by Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont.

“Emilia Pérez” is co-produced with French production company Why Not Productions and Page 114, together with Saint Laurent Productions, Pathé and France 2 Cinema. Pathé has acquired French distribution rights and will release the movie in French theaters.

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