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Q&A: Reilly aims for European stardom with 3 films at Cannes

John C Reilly poses for photographers during a photo call for the film Tale of Tales, at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)

CANNES, France (AP) — John C. Reilly has come to the Cannes Film Festival not just fashionably attired, but outfitted with three of the most adventurous films at the festival.

“When in Cannes,” he says stretching out on a rooftop patio in a gleaming white suit, accessorized with a matching hat, two-tone leather brogues and a cane.

The bold look is fitting: Reilly is effectively launching a new chapter for himself at the French Riviera festival. The versatile 49-year-old actor co-stars in two anticipated films in competition for the Palme d’Or, including Italian director Matteo Garrone’s “Tale of Tales,” a lavish adaptation of Giambattista Basile’s 17th century Neapolitan fairy tales. Reilly plays a king who, to satisfy the desire of his queen (Salma Hayek) slays a sea monster so that she can eat its heart.

In Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ deadpan dystopian drama “The Lobster,” Reilly is among the solitary people (along with Colin Farrell and Ben Whishaw) who will be turned into animals if they don’t find a mate. He also has a role in “Les Cowboys,” the directorial debut of Thomas Bidegain, the French screenwriter of “Rust and Bone” and “A Prophet.”

AP: This is your sixth time in Cannes. Do you have fond memories?

REILLY: I think the first time I came here was with Paul Thomas Anderson for his first film, “Hard Eight.” It was either in Un Certain Regard or Director’s Fortnight. That was probably only the second time I had been to Europe. It’s very exciting. When things are going well in Cannes, you feel like the world loves you. You’re just on top of all it. The problem is the next day when your film is no longer screening, and the crowds have gone on to the next thing, you feel very low. But this year, I’m here with three, so it’s like a non-stop party.

AP: You do seem to be enjoying yourself.

REILLY: Not just three films, but three European films. One’s with a French director; one’s with a Greek director; one’s with an Italian director. When I first started coming here, I often felt out of place, like you’re not quite fancy enough for France or you’re not quite educated enough about film to even be at this festival. But after all these years and just being the age I am and doing so many films, I really feel so at ease now. I love France. I think people really know how to live here.

AP: Do these films herald a change for you?

REILLY: My plan for the next phase of my life is to try to be a European film star. Even if it means doing movies phonetically, which I did actually. I speak Urdu in “Cowboys.” But it showed me: It’s possible. You don’t have to speak fluent Italian to be in an Italian movie. This plan of wanting to work more in Europe, isn’t just because it’s a great place to be and the way of life is wonderful. But the way films are made here is different. It’s much less formal. Frankly, there’s much more respect for the director as an auteur. It’s much more of a business in America.

AP: Does this new direction mean you’ve had your fill of comedy for now?

REILLY: No, no, no. Will (Ferrell) and I are constantly talking about finding the next thing to do. These things come in waves. When Judd Apatow was making his first movies and Adam McKay was making his first movies, it was a very interesting time for comedy — very wild and improvisational. Then things kind of settle and there’s more kind of mainstream that’s happening. It comes in waves. There’s actually a really funny script, one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time, that’s coming together soon that I hope I’ll be doing.

AP: What’s prompting this European wave?

REILLY: My kids are getting older and soon they’re going to be leaving to start their adult lives. So I want to do more plays. I want to go back to doing theater in New York and Los Angeles and Chicago. And I want to do films in Europe. There’s a reason (John) Malkovich moved to France.

AP: This is a particularly intrepid batch of films.

REILLY: These guys like Thomas and Matteo and Yorgos are like, “We can’t believe we got you! We were so happy when you said yes!” To me, it’s like, who wouldn’t? If you’re a successful actor in America doing films, why wouldn’t you come? When someone says, “Do you want to come to Sicily for two weeks and play a king?” — that’s not a risk to me. That’s a beautiful opportunity. You’d have to be an idiot not to say yes to all three of these guys.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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