Has being banned from the Cannes Film Festival troubled controversial director Lars von Trier at all? Apparently not. He seems to be loving his new status as bad boy of the fest, although he's insisting, "I'm not Mel Gibson."
At a previously scheduled roundtable interview on Thursday, Von Trier stated, "I'm very proud of being persona non grata. I've never been that before in my life, and that suits me extremely well."
He explained that when he used the word "Nazi," he was simply using "stupid" Danish slang in which "Nazi" is a synonym for "German." Even if that's true, it doesn't begin to explain his statement that he "sympathizes with Hitler."
The 'Melancholia' director acknowledged, "I'm known for provocations, but I like provocations when they have a purpose." He admitted, "This had no purpose whatsoever. Because I'm not Mel Gibson. I'm definitely not Mel Gibson."
Gibson, by the way, was also at Cannes for the screening of his film "The Beaver,' and even received a standing ovation. But the actor, who delivered his own infamous set of anti-Semitic rants, was not granting any interviews.
Von Trier joked to reporters, "I should be carried around in a little cage with something in my mouth and shown to the press." His opening statement to the group: "If any of you would like to hit me, you're perfectly welcome. I must warn you that I might enjoy it."
He's offered to have 'Melancholia' withdrawn from the festival but it remains in competition. In the unlikely event it wins the top prize of the Palme d'Or, von Trier cannot appear to accept it, a festival spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Peter Aalbaek Jensen, who co-founded the Danish production company Zentropa with Von Trier in 1992, said on Friday, "Zentropa would like to apologize to all persons, business partners, staff and institutions that, in connection with Lars von Trier's comments, have been [affected] in any way."
Aalbaek Jensen added, "We would like to make it perfectly clear that Zentropa does not share Lars von Trier's view of what might be funny to say at a press conference, and that his comments are a direct contradiction of Zentropa's values." He also expressed his "deepest regrets" to director Susanne Bier, who was the target of von Trier's Nazi comments.
Awkwardly, Zentropa also produced Bier's 'In a Better World,' which won the 2011 foreign-language film Oscar, and is producing Bier's upcoming film 'All You Need Is Love.'
CEO Rikke Ennis of TrustNordisk, which handles international sales for 'Melancholia,' told Variety, "So far Argentina is the only country to have canceled," she said. "I don't think it will have an impact ... since the film itself has nothing to do with Lars' comments. We will have to be patient, and wait and see."
Italian distributor Teodora Films, which is co-producing 'All You Need Is Love,' sided with Bier, however. "Von Trier's words, even though he said them jokingly, are absolutely unacceptable," said Teodora's Cesare Petrillo. He made the "solemn promise that we will never release a Von Trier movie in Italy."
The Danish Film Institute, which helped fund many of von Trier's films, including 'Melancholia,' also chastised the filmmaker in a statement: "It is unfortunate that great cinema should drown in such controversy totally irrelevant to the film itself. But there's nothing new in the fact that great artists make stupid remarks."
Magnolia is still planning to release the film in the U.S. this fall and a rep for British.-based Artificial Eye told Variety. "We are looking forward to bringing this extraordinary film to U.K. audiences [on September 30]."
A Spanish distributor said he would distribute the film "without any doubt," but a Belgian company was more cautious, saying, "We will assess the situation after the festival."
Will you see 'Melancholia' when it opens near you?