"The Sapphires" an unexpected hit at Cannes

Actor Chris O'Dowd attends the "The Sapphires" Photocall during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 20, 2012, in Cannes. Pictures: Cannes Film Festival fashion Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Actor Chris O'Dowd attends the "The Sapphires" photocall during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 20, 2012, in Cannes.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) "Bridesmaids" actor Chris O'Dowd feared being typecast after the success of that comedy so he decided to do something "very different" - an aboriginal musical entitled "The Sapphires."

"The Sapphires" premiered at Cannes to a lengthy standing ovation and eager debate over whether it was this year's out-of-left-field success story.

Pictures: Cannes Film Festival
Pictures: Fashion at Cannes

The film, directed by Wayne Blair (an Australian actor making his directorial debut), is about four lively black women, three sisters and a cousin (Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell), who set off from the Australian countryside to sing at a talent contest, and end up on a tour performing for U.S. Marines in Vietnam.

It's 1968 and the backdrop isn't just Vietnam, but the struggle by indigenous Australians for equal treatment in a society that often treated them like second-class citizens. O'Dowd plays their hard-drinking Irish manager, Dave Lovelace.

"It's a weird one, isn't it?" says Blair. "It's a 1968 period film. You have choreography, you have musical, four Aboriginal women, add an ignorant Irish alcoholic. Then you're taking them from Victoria to Melbourne to Vietnam and bringing them back home. Like, hello?"

The Weinstein Co. acquired the film ahead of Cannes. After its premiere, Harvey Weinstein was quoted by a Los Angeles Times reporter saying: "Have you seen 'The Sapphires'? 'The Artist' just happened again." Weinstein, who last year acquired the Oscar-winning "The Artist" at Cannes, has since backed away from that comparison, but the company is releasing the film this fall.

O'Dowd admits it's "kind of terrifying" that a film he never expected to even make it to America is so talked-about at Cannes.

But for O'Dowd, who originally set out to be a serious, Shakespearean actor before becoming a favorite choice for improvisation comedy, "The Sapphires" is yet another unexpected turn.

"Now, I want to definitely move into the musical sphere," he jokes. "Just Aboriginal musicals. I'll have a really short career."


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