Nitram star Caleb Landry Jones wins best actor award at Cannes for playing Port Arthur killer | Cannes film festival

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The man who portrayed Port Arthur mass murderer Martin Bryant has won the best actor award at the annual Cannes film festival.

The film Nitram, about the events of the massacre in Australia that killed 35 people, was accused early of possibly glorifying the killer.

But critics were stunned by the intimate family drama about mental illness that exploded into the headlines in 1996.

The film ends in the seconds before Bryant starts shooting at the former convict colony.

With the memory of the massacre still raw, actor Caleb Landry Jones, 31, said “it was very evident that people were going to be angry”.

“Some people probably pegged the film to be a certain kind of movie,” he said. “But it is a very sensitive piece and very respectfully made.”

Being Texan helped with his role: “The film is in many ways about the Australian male. I found a lot of similarities with Texas. So I knew what that was.”

He spent three months trying to get under Bryant’s skin.

“I really worked on the dialect for two months in Texas. But I arrived a month before we began shooting and if it wasn’t for that I think I would have failed miserably,” he said.

As he accepted his award, Jones said: “I can’t do this, I am going to throw up.”

“Thank you to the jury … fuck. Thank you Justin … fuck. I cannot do this. I am so sad that I cannot do this. Thank you so much. Thank you so much!”

The Palme d’Or, the most prestigious of cinema festival prizes, went to Titane, an unconventional and violent film directed by the 37-year-old French director Julia Ducournau.

In a chaotic ceremony, the prize was announced early by mistake by the chairman of the jury, Spike Lee, who misunderstood a confusing French instruction to describe the winner of the top prize. “English!” he exclaimed afterwards in frustration, as fellow jury member Tahar Rahim, star of the recent TV series The Serpent, tried to explain what had gone wrong to Lee, the celebrated American director of films Do The Right Thing and Da Five Bloods.

When the right moment finally came, it was Sharon Stone who presented the top award to Titane together with Lee. “She’s not going to mess this up!” he said.

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