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Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez Take Center Stage at ‘The Last Duel’ Premiere, But Jodie Comer’s Performance Stokes Applause

Ben Affleck, Nicole Holofcener, Ridley Scott,
Sipa USA via AP

Ridley Scott described “The Last Duel,” which stars Matt Damon, Jodie Comer, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck, as “a very challenging film, which illuminates an important issue,” when introducing the historical epic to the audience before its world premiere Friday at the Venice Film Festival.

The festival had just feted the director, by bestowing on him its Cartier Glory to the Filmmaker award, given to an individual who has made a “particularly original contribution” to the film industry.

Scott, who was greeted by festivalgoer with great warmth, enthusiasm and a minute-long standing ovation, thanked the festival and the award sponsor Cartier for their “significant support of cinema,” before adding, “We must never allow that to fade into the ether.”

Presenting his new film, Scott said: “The inspiration for it came from Matt and Ben, who called me up and said, ‘You have done a duel before, but we have another duel we are about to write — it is something quite different. It was, and so I did it.” The director added: “Jodie Comer and Adam Driver then joined with Matt and Ben, and [writer] Nicole Holofcener in what became an inspiring partnership. With my team — the people I always work with — we made a very challenging film, which illuminates an important issue. I hope you agree — I think it’s one of my better movies.”

The attention of the press and audience alike up to that point had been almost entirely focused on Affleck and his girlfriend Jennifer Lopez, whose arrival in Venice on Thursday had put to rest weeks of speculation around whether or not they would attend the festival together, and make their first major red carpet debut since reuniting as a couple.

The audience in the theater had stood expectantly for a considerable time facing the seats in the gallery where the cast were to sit, waiting for the love birds to appear. When they did a roar came from the onlookers as well as a blaze of light from their cell-phones. The joyous reception confirmed the premiere’s status as one of the highlights of the festival.

But whereas Affleck and Lopez stole the show before the screening, it was Comer who was the focus of attention when the lights went up after the film’s dramatic ending, which was followed by two minutes’ applause. Most of the audience had paid the “Killing Eve” and “Free Guy” star scant regard when she took her seat alone, in advance of the arrival of other cast members, but when her name appeared on the closing credits it provoked a sudden surge in the applause, and as the room was illuminated all eyes were on her, not the other stars.