Eric Cantona feted in Cannes for Loach film role

Brangelina aside, no one is getting bigger star treatment at the Cannes Film Festival than Eric Cantona.

Crossing the town's beachfront main drag, the Croisette, the French soccer great is mobbed by fans taking pictures and shouting "Le Roi" — the king. At the end of a press conference, journalists surge forward to get autographs from Cantona, who stars in Ken Loach's Cannes entry "Looking for Eric."

"People said to me, the Cannes experience is very special," said Cantona in the relative calm of a seafront hotel suite. "But I didn't know."

The level of adoration may surprise those unfamiliar with Cantona, a category that includes most Americans.

Loach's movie — an exceptionally funny and commercially appealing picture from a director better known for gritty social realism — should introduce many new moviegoers to Cantona, who is both athlete and icon, a football philosopher as famed for his cryptic pronouncements as for his stunning goals.

"Looking for Eric" plays on that reputation to comic effect. Cantona is the idol of central character Eric Bishop (British actor Steve Evets), a middle-aged Manchester mailman who pulls himself out of depression through imagined conversations with his hero. Cantona appears in Eric's bedroom for motivational chats, dispensing nuggets of wisdom such as, "He who is afraid to throw the dice will never throw a six."

So is Cantona sending up his reputation as a soccer sage?

He said the character is "a part of myself which is very close to what I am."

"We live in a world of image," Cantona said. "I've tried to be just myself — which is an image also."

It's a satisfyingly cryptic answer from a man who became a fan favorite at Manchester United in the 1990s. He helped the team win four league titles in five years but also gained a reputation for volatility and was suspended for nine months after landing a flying kick on a fan who heckled him.

Cantona baffled reporters at the subsequent press conference by pronouncing: "When the seagulls follow a trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea" — then leaving.

Journalists pored endlessly over the meaning of Cantona's words. Cantona says now they were "nonsense."

"They all tried to analyze, to find the sense of these words," he said. "But I think the sense was in the situation."

Jazz-lover Cantona spent his suspension learning to play the trumpet — he performs a slightly shaky version of "La Marseillaise" in the movie.

He retired from soccer in 1997 — he says he'd lost his passion for the game — and has concentrated on acting and film production. He initially approached Loach — director of "Kes," "It's a Free World" and 2006 Cannes top prize winner "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" — with an idea for a screenplay. That film never got made, but Cantona found Loach to be a kindred spirit — and a huge soccer fan.

"I really love his cinema," said Cantona, 42. "Sometimes it's so real, you think it's a documentary ... There's a lot of humanity and solidarity."

The two men share a desire to celebrate communal bonds. Loach is a lifelong socialist who said that his film, with its affectionate portrait of a group of Manchester United fans, sets out to show that we are at our best when we work together.

Cantona, despite his maverick reputation, also values group effort. In the film his character is asked to recall the highlight of his career — and the surprising answer is not a goal, but a pass to another player. Screenwriter Paul Laverty said that was Cantona's real response to the question.

He'd be happy if "Looking for Eric" won prizes when Cannes hands out its awards on Sunday. But the thing he most enjoyed about the experience was the teamwork.

"When we were all together on the red carpet, you could feel the energy between us," Cantona said. "All the team were there, and it was so strong, like when you are in a tournament, before you go on the pitch before a great game. I could feel this energy."

Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper, Alessandro Nivola and Patricia Clarkson on stage

film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
art

‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us