Honours for Robert De Niro, tears from legendary boxer Duran in Cannes

Cast members Robert De Niro (center), Edgar Ramirez (right) and Usher Raymond IV pose during a photocall for the film Hands Of Stone at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 16, 2016.
Cast members Robert De Niro (center), Edgar Ramirez (right) and Usher Raymond IV pose during a photocall for the film Hands Of Stone at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 16, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - It has been a while since legendary boxer Roberto Duran had a crowd on their feet chanting his name, but they did in Cannes on Monday after a screening of a film on his life starring Robert De Niro.

Both De Niro and Duran had tears in their eyes as they embraced to a standing ovation after the moving tale of the Panamanian's journey to boxing stardom in Hands Of Stone in Cannes, where De Niro was honoured for his five decade-long acting career.

"I don't know what to say, it's just great. All I can say is thank you," a visibly moved De Niro said after a clip was played showing many of his roles from Casino to Taxi Driver.

 

"It's a great honour to be honoured here in Cannes. As I've said before and will say again: Thank god for the French," said the 72-year-old New Yorker.

Producer Harvey Weinstein, said De Niro had been "a mentor, a kick-in-the-a**er, the guy who tells you the truth even when you don't want to hear it and the consummate actor." "I will cry, I will," said an emotional Weinstein.

De Niro cracked Panama tax jokes as he told of the journey to make the movie, which was eventually filmed in the country most recently in the news for the Panama Papers scandal.

Duran, known as "Hands of Stone", is a national hero in Panama, and the movie tracks his life as a child on the gritty streets of the country, where he was marked by riots over America's control of the Panama Canal.

De Niro plays Ray Arcel, who trained 18 world champions and was tasked with turning the hothead, America-hating Duran into world champion.

The film comes 36 years after his Oscar-winning performance as self-destructive boxer Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorsese's 1980 classic Raging Bull.

Hands Of Stone focuses on the rivalry between the Panamanian brawler (played by Edgar Ramirez) and Sugar Ray Leonard (played by the singer Usher Raymond).

After winning the WBC welterweight title from Leonard in 1980, Duran shocked the world by quitting mid-fight in a rematch five months later, reportedly with the words "No Mas" (No More) - which he still denies saying.

Duran - who began his professional career at 16 - fought on till he was 50.

The actor Ramirez also paid tribute to De Niro, whom he first met in Cannes five years ago when De Niro was president of the jury and Ramirez was presenting an award.

"Cannes must be the city of dreams as today five years later I have him standing in my corner, not only in film, but most importantly in life," said Ramirez, also moved to tears by Duran's reaction after the movie was screened.

De Niro starred in two films that won Cannes' top prize, the Palme d'Or - Scorsese's Taxi Driver in 1976 and Mission by the British director Roland Joffe 10 years later.

Hands Of Stone, directed by Jonathan Jakubowicz, will be released internationally in August and September.