news Cannes Director Says Woody Allen Film Wasn’t a Candidate for 2023: ‘The Controversy Would Take Over’

The newly announced Cannes Film Festival lineup is filled with highly anticipated films from some of the biggest directors on the planet — but it’s not without its share of controversy. The festival attracted headlines for its decision to program “Jeanne du Barry,” the new Maïwenn film that stars Johnny Depp as French monarch Louis XV, as the opening night selection. Depp’s first major role since his high-profile defamation trial against Amber Heard was always bound to be controversial, but the film became more of a lightning rod after a French journalist sued the director for assault.

Cannes director Thierry Fremaux defended his decision to program the film throughout the week, explaining that he saw the selection as fair game because neither Depp nor Maïwenn has been legally convicted of any crime.

“I don’t see Maïwenn’s film as a controversial choice at all,” Fremaux said in an interview. “Because if Johnny Depp had been banned from working it would have been different, but that’s not the case.”

But while Fremaux might be more tolerant of controversial artists than some American audiences would like, he still has his limits. In a new interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, Fremaux was asked why new films from Roman Polanski and Woody Allen were not selected for the festival. Both filmmakers have continued to find success working in Europe despite seeing opportunities in America dry up due to personal scandals. (Polanski can’t enter the U.S. due to his 1977 arrest for raping a 13-year-old girl, while Allen has largely become a Hollywood pariah due to renewed interest in allegations that he molested his stepdaughter Dylan Farrow in 1992).

Fremaux explained that while Polanski’s upcoming film “The Palace” was not screened for programmers, he did have a chance to watch Allen’s new France-set dark comedy “Coup de Chance.” But he said that the controversy surrounding Allen was bound to overshadow the festival if the film was selected, so he never seriously considered adding it to the lineup.

“The Polanski, we have not seen it. Woody Allen is a bit special, I saw it without seeing it,” Fremaux said in the interview as translated by IndieWire, suggesting he may have seen the movie outside the festival’s typical pre-screening model for submissions. “The film was not a candidate. We also know that if his film is shown at Cannes, the controversy would take over against his film, against the other films.”

Allen shot “Coup de Chance” in Paris with actors including Melvil Poupaud and Valérie Lemercier, as well as cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Allen’s last film to play Cannes was 2016’s opening night selection “Café Society.”