Cannes Film Fest 2019: Alain Delon, Controversial Honoree

The 2019 Cannes Film Fest is  forward with its decision to award an honorary Palme d’Or to controversial actor Alain Delon, despite criticism from the U.S. organization Women and Hollywood.

Photo: Delon in one of his best known films, Rocco and His Brothers.

The group protests comments that the veteran French actor, who’s 83, has made about slapping women, opposing the adoption of children by same-sex parents, and supporting the rise of the far right in France.

After Cannes’ April 17 announcement of the honor, Women and Hollywood founder Melissa Silverstein said she was “extremely disappointed” that Cannes would honor someone who held such “abhorrent values.” In a tweet, Silverstein said Delon “has publicly admitted to slapping women. He has aligned himself with the racist and anti-Semitic National Front. He has claimed that being gay is ‘against nature.’ The Cannes Film Festival has committed itself to diversity and inclusion. By honoring Mr. Delon, Cannes is honoring these abhorrent values.”

Cannes said that it was “honoring Alain Delon because he is a legendary actor and part of Cannes history, as we did for Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen and Agnès Varda. After Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean-Pierre Léaud, it seemed crucial for us to celebrate the iconic actor Alain Delon.” The festival declined to address the specific points raised against Delon.

Delon’s controversial remarks have previously been criticized as sexist and bigoted, but he has never been accused of domestic violence or of a crime.

An icon of the French–and European–film industry, he has starred in more than 80 films, working with filmmakers such as Michelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti, Jean-Pierre Melville and Jean-Luc Godard, and appearing alongside movie greats such as Romy Schneider, Jean Gabin, Yves Montand and Lino Ventura.

However, other advocacy groups have declined to comment. The French group 5050×2020, which promotes gender parity in the entertainment industry, said only that it was “regretful that Cannes is not giving its honorary Palme d’Or to a woman who is not an actress, even though there are plenty to choose from.”

A spokesperson for victim-defense and gender-parity group Time’s Up said that the group had no comment at this time.

The decision to give Delon the award comes as Cannes is trying to become a more inclusive festival. After being criticized for failing to highlight movies from female directors, Cannes selected a record-equaling four films by female directors to compete for its main prize, the Palme d’Or.

Last year, the festival signed a gender parity and inclusion pledge.