Woody Allen rape joke opens Cannes: French comedian burns Allen with scathing Roman Polanski reference

Laurent Lafitte's joke drew audible gasps from the crowd before the premiere of Allen's "Cafe Society"

By Sophia Tesfaye
May 11, 2016 10:47PM (UTC)
main article image
Woody Allen (Evan Agostini/invision/ap)

A French comedian dared to go where few entertainment reporters have dared to go with iconic Hollywood director Woody Allen, cracking a rape joke about the director at the opening night gala screening of his latest project, “Cafe Society.”

"You've shot so many of your films here in Europe and yet in the U.S. you haven't even been convicted of rape," the Hollywood Reporter quoted Cannes opening night master of ceremony Laurent Lafitte as saying in front of a stunned crowd that included Allen Wednesday night. Variety had a slightly different translation: “It’s very nice that you’ve been shooting so many movies in Europe, even if you are not being convicted for rape in the U.S..”


"The joke drew gasps from the audience, who suspected he was alluding to director Roman Polanski," Variety reported.  Polanski, another acclaimed filmmaker who's premiered several works at Cannes, escaped extradition to the U.S. to face charges of sexual assault late last year. He has been living in exile since his 1977 indictment for the rape of a 13-year-old girl.

"Thank you for coming tonight sir," the master of ceremonies continued to Allen in French. "Although it's the least you could do. Your film isn't even in competition. What's the worst that could happen? .... Or that it's not as good as 'Manhattan."

In a Hollywood Reporter column posted online a little less than an hour before Allen's news conference to promote“Cafe Society” at Cannes Wednesday, Allen's son, Ronan Farrow, blamed the news media for failing to ask Allen about longstanding allegations of sexual assault, citing his father's vaunted public relations machine for fending off the media.


“There will be press conferences and a red-carpet walk by my father and his wife (my sister). He’ll have his stars at his side — Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively, Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg. They can trust that the press won’t ask them the tough questions. It’s not the time, it’s not the place, it’s just not done,” Farrow predicted.

“Cannes is an extraordinary festival, I see so many people I know and the audience always responds well,” Woody Allen, his father, would go on to say at a friendly Cannes press conference where international journalist, once again, failed to ask about him about the sexual assault allegations. “I like Hollywood, seeing friends there but I couldn’t live there.”

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's Deputy Politics Editor and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

MORE FROM Sophia TesfayeFOLLOW @SophiaTesfaye

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Cannes Film Festival Rape Culture Roman Polanski Woody Allen