Andrea Arnold Says Her New Film ‘Bird’ Started With the Vision of a ‘Tall, Thin Man With a Long Penis Standing on a Roof’

Andrea Arnold’s initial inspiration for her Cannes competition entry “Bird” was perhaps not what many people might have been expecting.

“A very long time ago, I had the image a tall, thin man with a long penis, standing on a roof,” she explained at the press conference for the film on Friday when asked about her initial visual prompt. “But I didn’t know if he was good or bad or what he was.”

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From this bizarre starting point, Arnold crafted a social realist drama about a family on the fringes of society living by British seaside and an unexpected visitor who becomes close to a young girl entering puberty. Alongside stars Barry Keoghan and Franz Rogoswki, she once again peppered her cast with first-timers.

For Keoghan, he didn’t even need to look at the script before signing up, with Arnold having been on a list of filmmakers he’d wanted to work with for the last decade.

“I’ve been saying in interviews since 2014 that I wanted to work with Andrea, saying it over and over again,” he said. “And then the opportunity came up. I wasn’t given a script or anything like that. It was a no-brainer.”

“Bird” was hugely well received at its world premiere in the Palais on Thursday, receiving a seven-minute standing ovation.

Written and directed by Arnold, the film sees the director return to the social realist, kitchen sink world of her dramas “Red Road” and “Fish Tank” (both of them Cannes jury prize winners). In a performance like little else of his career so far, Keoghan plays Bug, a tattoo-covered young father struggling to devote much time to his two children, including his lonely and confused 12-year-old daughter Bailey (Nykiya Adams). Rogowski, meanwhile, plays the titular Bird, an eccentric outsider who suddenly enters Bailey’s life. Jasmine Jobson, best known for “Top Boy” also stars.

Arnold is a Cannes mainstay and festival favourite, having won the jury prize on three separate occasions for “Red Road” (2006), “Fish Tank” (2009) and “American Honey” (2016). In 2012, she served as a member of the festival jury. Her documentary “Cow,” which showed the daily life of a dairy cow, also premiered at the festival in 2021.

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