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The Venice Report: The Most Important News From The Festival

Our woman in Venice speaks to Alicia Vikander, Naomi Watts, James Franco and more

When Selena Gomez gives birth in James Franco’s new John Steinbeck adaptation, Indubious Battle, we do not expect that her director and friend will also be on screen winging it as a kind of midwife. That Franco cast her as a young woman yearning for the quiet life and to settle down is perhaps prescient, given Gomez’s recent announcement that she is taking a break.

“We bonded while making Spring Breakers and stayed in touch over the years,” Franco explains. “I knew Selena was a great actress and thought she probably doesn’t get offered roles like this ever. So I had an instinct she’d be perfect to play this young mother. She’s much like that possibly because of her relationship with her fans, but she does have a motherly instinct. She looks out for the younger generation. She’s very responsible in that way.”

Pregnancy has in fact been a theme in Venice this year. In the undisputed tearjerker The Light Between Oceans Alicia Vikander’s lighthouse keeper’s wife Isabel, is so desperate to have a child that when she discovers a baby on the shore she is determined to keep her.

Admitting she is not a mother herself, Vikander said playing one was a huge challenge.

“This extreme longing for a child is something a lot of women share. Isabel also goes through miscarriages, and I know it’s a subject that is not talked about much, but it’s common and it’s a trauma a lot of people can relate to. I always imagined having a family in the future, but I sit there imagining half the women in the audience thinking, ‘She doesn’t really know what it’s like.’”

Still the Swedish actor’s passion with her onscreen husband, Michael Fassbender, can rightly be perceived as real. The couple fell in love on the film, which was mostly shot on a windswept New Zealand peninsula, substituting for the fictitious West Australian island in M.L. Stedman’s novel. Vikander was mum on the status of her relationship with Fassbender in Venice even if she was seated beside him in interviews. No personal questions were allowed.

Guy Pearce also met his current partner Carice van Houten (Melisandre on Game of Thrones) on the western Brimstone that world premiered at the festival. However this portrait of the Wild West from a woman’s point of view is hardly a romantic story. In fact Pearce’s preacher terrorises his onscreen wife while the actor fell in love with actress playing her. Neither were able to come to Venice to present their film as a few weeks back they became the parents of a baby son, named Monte. By all accounts they spread their love to the other cast members.

“Guy was really intense when working on the scene and then so nice and so funny afterwards,” recalls Dakota Fanning who plays his daughter Liz. While even at age 14 Emilia Jones who plays the younger version of Liz, recalls how the ever-reassuring, relaxed van Houten suggested, “Let’s go have a coffee!” moments after her character hung herself.

In Venice longterm couple Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber were endearing towards each other onscreen and off. The pair teamed up for The Bleeder, which marks the first time they’ve acted together since 2006’s The Painted Veil, which according to Watts they made while they were dating.

As usual Watts looked stunning, donning a yellow Roksanda dress for her press conference and an Elie Saab gown for the premiere.

“I like fashion a lot and always have done before I was earning any money or anything,” Watts said. “I always enjoyed going to flea markets and things like that and putting things together. I even had a little moment of working in the fashion industry as a fashion assistant on the magazine Follow Me. I worked there for two years.”

Dakota Fanning meanwhile looked stunning in a silver moon and star emblazoned deep purple retro dress with puffed sleeves, accessorized with mauve nail polish, silver eyeshadow and red, blue and silver Louboutin heels. Emma Stone, in town for the hugely popular festival opener, La La Land, was probably the most sensational on the red carpet in a high-necked custom Atelier Versace gown, made up of beaded ribbons.

That other fabulous Hollywood redhead Amy Adams did double duty at the festival starring in both Arrival and Nocturnal Animals and for our interview looked effortlessly chic in a white Pucci tea dress with a blue floral pattern that reflected the colour of her eyes.

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