Cannes Film Festival: Katie Holmes Talks Mentoring, Social Media and Facing Her Fears

It’s Katie Holmes’ first Cannes. The actress, and now writer-director, came to the film festival to promote her newest project — mentoring young female filmmakers in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s important to hear perspectives from all over the world, but especially from Saudi Arabia. These women, they’re finally getting their freedoms, and this is one of them,” she tells WWD.

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The program will aim to get the filmmakers into international festivals and give them more visibility on the world stage. “That can be very powerful. I want to know their stories. I think it’s important for Westerners to see and hear.”

Holmes says while she grew up on-screen and made helpful connections in Hollywood along the way, the lack of female mentorship is needed as the industry opens up to more voices.

“I feel like in some ways, I just learned on the job my whole career,” she says, which was particularly challenging as she transitioned to working behind the camera. “Programs where you can really take time, and sit down with someone with no agenda, just to help them figure out an idea, are important. It’s also a process to learn to trust yourself.”

Moving into writing and directing was more instinctive than some sort of grand plan to redefine herself, Holmes says. It just felt right in the moment, and was dependent on finding material she loved and wanting to share it.

“I just felt like it was something that was another step of creativity,” she says. “I’ve never really been that focused on the exterior.” Wearing a sunny outfit from Khaite paired with Manolo Blahnik sandals and earrings from Rainbow K, Holmes curled up on a couch on the Majestic rooftop overlooking the Mediterranean. She exudes chilled comfort.

While she has been focused on character-driven pieces such as “Rare Objects,” which came out earlier this year, Holmes feels herself itching for a comedy. She’s putting together a project that she feels will add a bit of light to the moment.

“These are wild times. There is a lot of change,” she says. “We all need to laugh right now.”

For Holmes, relief comes from reading. She says she still devours paper books, and that while it’s impossible to stay off social media, she has a timer so that she doesn’t end up in an endless scroll. “I really try not to go on it, because I’ve noticed I feel uninspired when I’m on it. And it’s — we’re all monitoring ourselves in this climate. I feel inspired when I read.”

She also gets a sense of community from being onstage, and continues her theater work in New York. “It’s a pure experience of communicating something, like we were all sharing it together, and there was nothing in between,” she says of the actors and audience being in the same room. “There was something just very human about it. You share a moment, and it’s wonderful.”

Katie Holmes
Katie Holmes at the Majestic Hotel.

Holmes says she remains surprised when her fashion looks go viral and there’s no strategy behind her style. “I’m not that person,” she says. “I’m an actor, so I feel like I’ll put a costume on when I’m doing a movie, and in the meantime, I just wear what I like.”

“One of the things I’ve always loved about playing characters and directing is the wardrobe, the costumes, because that is a visual thing that can tell so much about a character,” she says, speaking on the Kering stage.

Holmes says that as a director, she tries to mentor young actresses to feel empowered.

“There’s no right way to get a scene,” she says, adding that she tries to teach them to try their own approach. The audition process instills a “pick me” energy in actors, who then try to conform. Holmes tries to instill the idea that there are no mistakes.

“It’s not what you did, it’s who you are, right? So we start there. It’s really just kind of getting all of the fears out of the way,” she says.

Holmes says she let her fears go during the writing process, and was open to constructive criticism. “After you lick your wounds a little bit, and then you get another idea,” she says of her approach to taking things head on. “There’s always fear going into something. So it’s just like, ‘OK, what am I really afraid about? So let’s look at that, and let’s get past that.’”

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