- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2011

CANNES, FRANCE (AP) - When Niels Schneider was told about two months ago he’d been awarded a prize for emerging talent at the Cannes Film Festival, the 23-year-old Quebec-based actor thought it was a joke.

Schneider and French-Spanish actress Astrid Berges-Frisbey were awarded the prestigious Chopard Trophy in a star-studded ceremony Saturday.

Robert De Niro, who presides the nine-member jury at this year’s edition of the Riviera showcase, presented the two with their gilded trophies.

“It’s already a real gift to get an award, and to get it from these hands,” gushed a moved Berges-Frisbey, her voice trailing off as the tears came.

As for Schneider _ who plays the object of everyone’s affections in “Heartbeats” by Xavier Dolan _ he initially thought it was a joke.

“They told me on April 1 and it’s such a huge award, I was sure it was an April Fools prank,” Schneider told The Associated Press in a pre-ceremony interview. “It’s an honor, but also really a lot of pressure, given the list of winners.”

Past laureates of the honor, which is in its 10th year, include Oscar-winning French actress Marion Cotillard, Audrey Tautou of “Amelie” fame and Mexican heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal.

This year’s prizes were awarded by a jury including actress Marisa Berenson and French director Claude Lelouch.

Also on hand for Saturday’s ceremony, and the terrace-top soiree that followed, were Brazilian soap star Rodrigo Santoro, who won the Chopard Trophy in 2004, and British TV personality Alexa Chung.

A jazz band played as guests sipped pink Champagne on the terrace of the Hotel Martinez, a top star hotspot during the 12-day-long festival.