The first week of the 76th Cannes Film Festival saw a steady stream of Mumbai actors sashay up the steps of the Grand Lumiere at the gala but without a film of their own in the official selection. On Wednesday night, Sunny Leone is set to change that.
Leone, one of the lead actors of Anurag Kashyap's "Kennedy", which premieres here in the early hours of Thursday as part of the festival's Midnights Screenings section, will be the real deal when she walks the red carpet alongside the director and co-star Rahul Bhat.
In an interview with PTI a day ahead of the screening of "Kennedy", Leone said: "Growing up, you have a vision of what it could be like to be in Cannes. Once you are here, it is something else."
"I feel really fortunate that I have a film here. It is beyond exciting. I am going to walk that red carpet. I still don't believe it. I struggle to hold back tears every time I talk about it," she said.
The 42-year-old has been busy during the first two days of her stay in Cannes doing shoots and attending other events. But the next 24 hours could change the course of her career. It is easy to see why she is so excited.
She already has a couple of south films in post-production.
"One is a psychological thriller, the other a gangster film," Leone revealed.
Does she expect "Kennedy" to change how the industry perceives her as an actor? "I hope it does," she said.
Answering a question about how she landed the role of Charlie in "Kennedy", she said Kashyap called her and said he believed she was right for the part.
"But he said I would have to audition for it. I said 'I'd love to'," the actor recalled.
She went prepared for the audition.
"Ten people were sitting there. I gave the audition. The director said you are right for the role and then turned to all the others and asked what they felt. That was a real test," Leone said.
"I sneakily found out last night that the director's mind had already been made up. They were probably not sure I would turn up for the audition. Many actors in Bollywood do not give screen tests after they reach a certain level," she added.
The actor admitted she felt a certain degree of pressure while working on "Kennedy", a noirish thriller which follows the titular character working for a corrupt police force with scores to settle.
"A director of Anurag Kashyap's calibre has not been a part of my resume up until now. So, there was the pressure to do a good job, to meet expectations," she said.
Kashyap is kind and generous but he is also very secretive, said Leone.
"I asked for the script. He said you cannot have the script. I warned him I would bug him for information about my lines and character every day," she added.
Leone attended workshops before the film began, so she had an idea what she was going to do in "Kennedy".
"I think Charlie is a strong woman who is caught between two realities. One is the life that she wants to have, the other is the truth that she lives. She hides a lot behind her smile, behind her laugh," she said.