When UK director Mike Leigh won the Palme d'Or in 1996 for Secrets And Lies, its star Brenda Blethyn also picked up the best actress prize. Leigh's first film in competition was 1993's Naked, which won the best actor and best director prizes. 'I had been making films for a very long time before I got a film at Cannes,' the director says. 'It was a big breakthrough to be at Cannes at all.'

What did it feel like to win the Palme d'Or'
The Palme d'Or experience is not just the moment you get it but the whole build-up during the festival... And then you have this whole thing where you come back to London. I and my then wife Alison Steadman sat in the house and we kept getting contradictory messages (about whether to return to Cannes), before we got a message to go back and we went and we won.

You know if you are called back that you have won something, but for all we knew it might have been best director or one of the other categories.

How did you celebrate'
The great thing is you don't have to go off and celebrate on your tod. A lot of people are involved, the distributors are there and there was a celebration party arranged. And you then get the best Cannes experience and have a lot to drink and all the rest of it.

How did it affect your career' Did it make it easier to attract funding'
Secrets And Lies is the most commercially successful film I've made. It did very well worldwide - it was nominated for five Oscars - and the Palme d'Or had a huge impact. There is no question that it helped us considerably in raising a much larger budget for the next-but-one film we made, which was Topsy Turvy - which had substantial French money in it.

Where do you keep your Palme d'Or'
All the baubles that I or anybody has won - apart from actors - are all in the office in the West End [of London].

How do you believe Cannes has changed over the years'
As far as I'm concerned, and I speak both as a recipient and having been on the jury and having had the Oscar experience a few times, the important thing about Cannes is that it's become the focal point of world cinema outside the grip of Hollywood. And that is really important. And I find it very rewarding and very amusing and altogether a wholly excellent experience to see Hollywood tough boys not being able to get a grip on it, not being able to influence or nobble Cannes. They can go fuck themselves.