Controversial film director Woody Allen has defended the actions of Spanish football president Luis Rubiales, who forced an unsolicited kiss on winning captain Jenni Hermoso at the Women’s World Cup final last month.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker was asked about the incident that has sparked worldwide outrage in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo ahead of the world premiere of his 50th film Coup de Chance (Stroke of Luck) at the Venice Film Festival.
Allen, 87, said the Spanish football chief should not lose his job over an incident that he sees as “only a kiss” that was a lesser crime that only required an apology.
“The first thing I thought was that they didn’t hide,” he told the newspaper.
“He didn’t even kiss her in a dark alley. He wasn’t raping her. It was only a kiss and it was a friend. What’s wrong with that?
“It’s not like he murdered someone. But they suspended him from his position and he could lose everything … He did something incorrect … but it wasn’t like he burnt a school down.”
Allen said he did not know if Hermoso turned away from Rubiales or told him not to kiss her.
“Whatever the case, it’s difficult to understand that a person can lose their job and be penalized in that way for giving someone a kiss,” he added.
“If it was inappropriate or too aggressive, you have to tell them clearly to not do that and he needs to apologize.”
The El Mundo journalist told Allen that Hermoso did not consent to the kiss and that Rubiales was in a position of power, but the director doubled down on his defense of the soccer chief’s brazen actions in “public”
“Yes, that’s right. But, on the other side, it was something public. He wasn’t kissing her in his office with a closed door or anything like that where she would have been threatened,” he said.
“It was clearly in front of everyone and she was not in danger.
“But, of course, she has every right to be clear that she does not want to (be kissed) and he should ask for forgiveness and assure that he will not do it again. And, with that, they should both move on.”
Rubiales, 46, sparked worldwide outrage when he forcibly kissed Hermoso on the lips during the tournament medal ceremony in Sydney on August 20.
He was suspended by FIFA for 90 days over the incident but has refused to resign as Spanish Football Federation president despite mounting public and government pressure.
He insists he is the victim of a smear campaign.
Hermoso has maintained she did not consent to be kissed on the lips during the trophy presentation, and felt “vulnerable and the victim of an assault”.
Allen’s comments about the incident were far more subdued and dismissive than the fury expressed by players and the public, who have held public protests against Rubiales in Spain.
But his apparent defense of the infamous league president has drawn criticism from social media users, who say the director’s contribution only made the situation “worse” for Rubiales.
“At this point even Rubiales is like: ‘Woody, please, it’s bad enough as it is…’,” one person wrote on X, formally known as Twitter.
“When someone defends you with the argument ‘he wasn’t raping her, it was just a kiss’ and that person is Woody Allen, it’s time you realize you did something very wrong,” another wrote.
“I on the other hand can easily see how kissing a random person in the workplace out of the blue without obtaining permission would lead to immediate walking papers from that job,” someone else wrote.
“Such is how things are in the real world.”
The twilight years of Allen’s lengthy career have been rocked by allegations of sexual assault levelled against him, including by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow who alleged he sexually abused her when she was a child.
The allegations were at the core of an explosive four-part documentary series Allen v Farrow, released in 2021.
The veteran director addressed those allegations – which he has always denied – in another interview at the Venice Film Festival.
“The situation has been investigated by two people, two major bodies, not people, but two major investigative bodies. And both, after long detailed investigations, concluded there was no merit to these charges, that, you know, is exactly as I wrote in my book, Apropos of Nothing,” Allen told Variety.
That autobiography sparked its own controversy, canceled by its original publisher Hachette after staff protests. It was later picked up and released by Arcade Publishing.
Allen told Variety he was “always willing” to reconcile with Dylan and her brother, journalist Ronan Farrow – who is Allen’s biological son with actor Mia Farrow.
His relationship with the actor, now 78, ended in 1992 after 12 years when his intimate relationship with Soon-Yi Previn – Mia’s then 21-year-old adopted daughter – became public.
Allen and Previn married in 1997 and share two adopted daughters Bechet, 24, and Manzie Tio, 23.
The family walked the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival together.
The Variety interview also touched upon the #MeToo movement and cancel culture, which Allen called “all so silly”.
“I think any movement where there’s actual benefit, where it does something positive, let’s say for women, is a good thing,” he said.
“When it becomes silly, it’s silly. I read instances where it’s very beneficial, where the situation has been very beneficial for women, and that’s good. When I read of some instances in a story in the paper where it’s silly, then it’s foolish.”
A group of about 20 bare-chested protesters staged a demonstration against “rape culture” during the red carpet for Coup de Chance in Venice, according to The Hollywood Reporter, chanting that they spoke, “for those without a voice against the director predators”.
The demonstration began as Allen stepped onto the red carpet of his film, stopping shortly past the carpet, where they chanted for a few minutes before they were led out of the festival area by police.
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