“He spoke enough for a newspaper paragraph!” laughed an American journalist after Robert De Niro’s press conference yesterday at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes. “Bob,” the head of this year’s jury, arrived first, followed by eight members of his team, which includes actors Jude Law (GBR), Uma Thurman (USA) and Martina Gusman (Argentina), directors Johnnie To (Hong Kong), Olivier Assayas (France), Mahamat Saleh Haroun (Chad), writer Linn Ullmann (Norway) and producer Nansun Shi (China).

With a soft voice and short sentences, sometimes pinching his lips between answers, De Niro spoke briefly indeed. “I’ve been here many times in the last 35 years. But I’m not sure what I am looking for,” he said. “I’m anxious, looking forward to see all the movies. In some ways it feels like a vacation, out of the distractions from my everyday life.”

De Niro, who also runs the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, did acknowledge the importance of winning a prize in a big event like Cannes. “Whatever people say, it helps single out certain movies that need attention. It also inspires other directors and actors.” In the past, De Niro starred in two movies that won the ultimate prize, Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” in 1976 and Roland Joffe’s “The Mission” in 1986. “Awards mean something. They helped my career and I cherish them all.” Is there any specific criteria for a Palme d’Or? “Comparing movies will be interesting but there is no prescribed way. We haven’t seen anything yet so it’s up for grabs!”