Laurent Lafitte, a French comedian and the opening night's master of ceremonies, made a joke about the sexual assault allegations against the director. Some also believed it was a reference to fugitive filmmaker Roman Polanski, who was arrested in the U.S. in 1977 and charged with raping a 13-year-old girl. He fled to Europe to avoid prison after accepting a plea bargain on a lesser charge. "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," Lafitte quipped.
At a celebratory lunch for Allen's festival entry, Café Society, which stars Lively and Kristen Stewart, Allen said he wasn't defended by the Frenchman's words. The former Gossip Girl star, however, made it clear she wasn't happy with what was said.
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"I think any jokes about rape, homophobia or Hitler is not a joke. I think that was a hard thing [to] swallow in 30 seconds. Film festivals are such a beautiful, respectful festivals of film and artists and to have that, it felt like it wouldn't have happened if it was in the 1940s. I can't imagine Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby going out and doing that," she said, per Variety. "It was more disappointing for the artists in the room that someone was going up there making jokes about something that wasn't funny."
Later on she continued to defend her director. "It's amazing what Woody has written for women," she told the Los Angeles Times. She also explained that she hadn't read any of the controversial news surrounding Allen and his personal life.
"It's very dangerous to factor in things you don't know anything about," she said. "I could [only] know my experience. And my experience with Woody is he's empowering to women."
Lafitte also took time to respond to the commentary made about his joke, claiming it was never his intention to hurt or embarrass anyone, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He told the trade publication that his quip was meant to be a comment on "American puritanism" and Polanski's exile status.
"...after the show, I was told that there were strong reactions. What I've learned only just this morning is that Woody Allen's son made a statement yesterday with accusations [involving rape]. I didn't know that," he explained. "When I wrote this joke, it was more a joke about Europe and why one of the greatest American directors spent years in Europe, because he didn't have to because he wasn't accused of rape in his own country, compared to Roman Polanski. It was [meant] as joke about American puritanism and the fact that it is surprising that an American director wants to do so many movies in Europe. I didn't know about the other stuff."
He said had he known of the allegations, he would've deleted the joke.