Thierry Fremaux says he will announce two to three more titles in coming weeks.

The Cannes Film Festival unveiled an eclectic Official Selection on Thursday, combining American indie fare with the latest films from Cannes stalwarts such as Michael Haneke and David Cronenberg.  

“In recent years, the image of American cinema was that it was split between big studio films and independent films in the Sundance mold… with very little in between. It was hard for us to find films suitable for Cannes,” Artistic Director Thierry Fremaux told Screen today.

“And then suddenly we have five American films as well as a number of other suitable films in the pipeline… has American cinema rediscovered a type of film that it had lost in recent years… that’s the question we’re asking ourselves. I expect there to be a lot of debate about this at Cannes,” he continued.

Alongside Wes Anderson’s opening film Moonrise Kingdom, other American titles include Jeff Nichols’ Arkansas-set Mud, a coming of age tale starring Matthew McConaughey as a fugitive who is befriended by two teenage boys. The cast also features Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard and Michael Shannon, star of Nichols’ Take Shelter, which won Critics’ Week last year.

Lee Daniels, whose last feature Precious screened in Un Certain Regard in 2009, returns to the festival with The Paperboy, starring Zac Efron as a reporter who returns to his hometown in the Deep South to investigate a case involving a death row inmate.

Other US-produced features include New Zealand director Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly, starring Brad Pitt as a hitman’s assistant who ends up investigating a heist of the mobs assets during a poker game.

Australia-born John Hillcoat’s prohibition era drama Lawless (formerly titled The Wettest County), produced by The Weinstein Company and starring Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Shia Laboeuf and Jessica Chastain, will also compete. The tale revolving around a group of bootleggers is set in Franklin County, Virginia.

“What I also think is interesting is that none of these films are shot in New York or Los Angeles but rather in the South… they show another America,” said Fremaux.

In another nod to American cinema, veteran filmmaker and screenwriter Philip Kaufman will give the Leçon de Cinema and premiere his HBO-backed film Hemmingway & Gellhorn, starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman as the famous writer-journalist couple.  

There was much speculation that Terrence Malick’s upcoming film, which is currently in post-production, as well as Denis Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines would be in the Official Selection but Fremaux said neither were ready.

“I would have loved to have even seen the Malick as well as the Paul [Thomas] Anderson [The Master]. They are great artists who we love to have at Cannes but unfortunately their films were not ready,” he revealed.

Young Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s third film Laurence Anyways was also tipped to make it into competition, after Dolan’s slots in Directors Fortnight and Un Certain Regard in previous years, but will screen in Un Certain Regard instead.

“Where is the problem? I discussed it with Xavier and we decided it made most sense to put it in Un Certain Regard,” commented Fremaux.

French pictures vying for the Palme d’Or comprise Alain Resnais’ Vous n’avez encore rien vu, Leos Carax’s Holy Motors and Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone (De Rouille et D’Os).  

Audiard was last in Cannes in 2009 with A Prophet, for which he won the Jury Prize. Resnais, who has made surprisingly few appearances at the festival since his 1959 Hiroshima Mon Amour, was last at the palais with Wild Grass. Carax was last in Cannes in 1999 with Pola X.

“We haven’t seen Carax in Cannes for nearly 15 years, it marks his return,” said Fremaux.

Other Cannes returnees include Cristian Mungiu with his chilling exorcism drama Beyond the Hills; Abbas Kiarostami with his Japan-set Like Someone in Love and David Cronenberg, whose previous Cannes films have included Crash and A History Of Violence, with Cosmopolis.

Also, Cronenberg’s son Brandon is set to screen his debut feature, Antiviral, in Un Certain Regard.  

Pressed on the dearth of female directors in Official Selection this year, Fremaux replied: “I’m a feminist and on that basis I don’t like to think in terms of whether a director is male or female – the films are all judged on the same basis… we didn’t really see that many films by female directors this year.”

In total, the festival received some 1,779 films and thus far has announced 54 titles in Official Selection. Fremaux expects to announce two to three more titles in the coming weeks.

Fremaux said the selection process had taken place right up to the eleventh hour. “I was screening a film at 9.30 last night.”

The announcement at the Grand Hotel in central Paris ended weeks of pre-Cannes, Twitter-fuelled speculation.

“There have already been some Tweets?” said Fremaux with mock gravity half-way through the press conference before turning to festival president Gilles Jacob, to ask: “Did you get the names?”

According to the festival protocol, journalists are traditionally asked to wait until the end of the press conference before posting information. 

Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week selections will be announced Monday and Tuesday.

See full lists of the lineups for Competition and Un Certain Regard.