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Ballad of Narayama

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Chicago actress takes Cannes prize

CANNES, France -- The Cannes prize for Chicago actress Irma P. Hall was explained, sort of, at the jury's press conference Sunday. The jury gave its best actress award to Maggie Cheung for "Clean," and then broke with precedent by giving a special jury prize to Hall for her work in "The Ladykillers."

"She was a force of nature," said jury president Quentin Tarantino.

Hall, 66, who was Big Mama in "Soul Food," played a little old lady who does not get killed in the Coen Brothers' "The Ladykillers," a festival entry. Seriously injured in a car crash in January, she is undergoing rehabilitation treatments, with much moral support from her co-star, Tom Hanks.

"We were thinking of just going ahead and titling the prize the Force of Nature Award," said actress Tilda Swinton, a jury member.

"I left my wallet in El Segundo!" Tarantino declared, in a passable Irma P. Hall imitation.

"He's been talking in her voice for the last three days," said Swinton.

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