Steven Spielberg ready for a '12 Angry Men’ situation at the Cannes Film Festival

Perhaps looking to stir up controversy at its 66th running, the Cannes Film Festival's red carpet questioner gave what seemed to be a backhanded compliment to this year’s president, Steven Spielberg.

Speaking to Spielberg on the red carpet Wednesday, he professed gratitude to the director of “Jaws,” four “Indiana Jones,”  and, most recently, “Lincoln,” for finally accepting Cannes’ invitation after years and years – and years -- of declining the offer.

Denying he had been ducking Cannes, Spielberg replied with veiled exasperation: “I was always busy filming each Spring!”

The Oscar winning director attended the red carpet event along with the festival’s eight judges: fellow Oscar winners Nicole Kidman, Christoph Waltz, and Ang Lee, and five other international notables.

At the judges’ press conference afterwards, inside Cannes’ glitzy Palace de Festivale, Spielberg again found himself on the defensive. Asked if he would be afraid to judge other filmmakers’ films, Spielberg responded flatly “No,” adding that as directors, actors, and producers, he and his fellow panelists “were used to being judged.”

The Cannes jury talked warmly of the festival, filmmaking, and working together at the prestigious annual event.

Ang Lee admitted he might be uncomfortable picking and choosing among colleagues, but other panelists seemed exhilarated to be part of Spielberg’s posse. Kidman said she had always wanted to pick Spielberg’s brain, “and now I get to spend two weeks with him!”

“I expect discussion on the highest level with these extraordinary artists,” added Waltz, a two-time Oscar winner for “Django Unchained” and “Inglourious Basterds.”

Spielberg concurred. Speaking of the panel, equally split between male and female and hailing from the U.S., Austria, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Romania, India, France, and England, he said: “The great thing about such a multicultural group from so many disciplines is that we speak the common language of cinema.”

But he also admitted things might not go as smoothly as planned in picking the Cannes winners.

“I’m going to have to look at the Sidney Lumet film ‘12 Angry Men’ again to prepare for the final day (of deliberation),” Spielberg laughed.

Except this time around it could be five angry men, and four angry women.

Which would be even worse.