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Woody Allen Is Punch Line of Rape Joke Comparing Him to Roman Polanski at Cannes Opening Ceremony

Woody Allen
Woody Allen and his partner, Soon-Yi Previn, attend the opening ceremony of the 69th Cannes Film Festival on May 11, 2016.

Woody Allen was the subject of a rape joke during the opening night of the 69th annual Cannes International Film Festival on Wednesday, May 11, where he is premiering his new film Café Society.

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“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,” French comedian and master of ceremonies Laurent Lafitte said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Allen was joined at the kickoff by Café Society stars Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively and Jesse Eisenberg.

Laurent Lafitte
French actor and MC Laurent Lafitte stands on stage on May 11, 2016, during the opening ceremony for the 69th Cannes Film Festival.

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Many interpreted the joke as comparing the Oscar winner to director Roman Polanski, who was arrested in 1977 for the rape of a 13-year-old and later pleaded guilty to the charge of unlawful sex with a minor. When Polanski learned the judge was going to reject the plea bargain, he fled to Europe, where he continues to make films. The Polish director has subsequently escaped several bids by the U.S. for extradition.

Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski surrounded by reporters at the Santa Monica Courthouse circa 1977.

The Annie Hall director has raised eyebrows for his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Allen’s former partner Mia Farrow. Allen and Previn, who is 35 years his junior, married in 1997. The actress’ daughter Dylan Farrow has claimed that the famous filmmaker sexually abused her as a child. Allen has vehemently denied these allegations.

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Last week, the director gave a rare interview about his wife of 19 years, and how he’s improved Previn’s life from her difficult upbringing in Korea. “I’ve been able to really make her life better,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I provided her with enormous opportunities, and she has sparked to them. … She has just become a different person. So the contributions I’ve made to her life have given me more pleasure than all my films.”

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