Dominic West has revealed he based his performance in Palme d’Or contender The Square on real-life contemporary artists – but refused to reveal who.
The Wire actor plays famous artist Julian in the art world satire, alongside Mad Men star Elisabeth Moss.
He admitted he would be “pretty scared” to meet Julian as those kind of people are “so powerful and so rich”.
Asked who he was inspired by for the role, he said: “I’m sure you can guess.”
He added of his character, who wears pyjamas, a sports jacket and tinted glasses: “My clothes give it away,” while co-star Claes Bang hinted that the name was also a clue.
The Square, by Force Majeur director Ruben Ostlund, focuses on Bang’s character Christian as the gallery he runs prepares for a new exhibition called The Square, a space in the courtyard which encourages members of the public to be altruistic.
Meanwhile, his private life starts to unravel after he is mugged and seeks the return of his belongings in an unorthodox way.
Julian’s work in the gallery includes piles of gravel arranged on the floor, and a neon sign reading: “You have nothing”.
Speaking about his character, West told press conference at the Cannes Film Festival: “I think they’re pretty scary, these guys, the incredibly knowledgeable artists who cannot be disputed because they’re talking about art, which is something there’s no definite answer to.
“So I’d be quite scared of meeting someone like that. Also, because they’re so powerful and so rich.”
Asked about the inspiration, he replied: “We had a lot of people in mind. A lot of the interview we filmed [when Julian takes part in a gallery event] was taken from various interviews with great international artists who we looked at in great detail.”
To laughter from the press, he added: “I can’t remember their names. But I’m sure you can guess. My clothes give it away.”
Christian is interviewed by American journalist Anne, played by Moss, and when he returns to her flat one night finds an ape in there with him – the presence of which is never explained in the film.
Ostlund said of the half-bonobo ape: “Anything can happen in a movie when a monkey appears in an apartment.
“I love monkeys and I think human beings love looking at monkeys because you’re seeing yourself reflected in them.”
Moss said to him: “I got an email from you saying: ‘So I’m thinking you should have a monkey’. And I was like – okay!”
She said working with Ostlund was “incredibly challenging, even more than I thought it was going to be”.
Moss, who stars in A Handmaid’s Tale, added: “That’s what I wanted – to do something different that was out of the rhythm and the norm of what I would usually do.”
Moss said a sex scene was “hilarious to film” – as it is shot from the perspectives of the two characters.
“I was doing it with a camera in my face, on an apple box,” she said.
Moss said sex scenes are “always awkward and uncomfortable” but added “with Ruben, it becomes a thousand times more awkward and uncomfortable because that’s what he’s looking for”.
It has had good early reviews – despite some complaining that at two hours and 22 minutes, it is overly long.
The film received four stars from the Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin, who said that while it is a “slow burn”, it has a “cumulative force that can’t be resisted”.
It also gained four stars from Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian, who called it “thrillingly weird”.