Harvey Weinstein has denounced French right wing politician Jean-Marie Le Pen over comments Le Pen made about blockbuster The Intouchables, which The Weinstein Co. is releasing in the U.S.
Weinstein — fresh off his Oscar wins for another French film, The Artist—said Le Pen’s attack on the film was “repulsive” and represented “a bigoted world view.”
During a recent TV appearance on French public TV network France 3, Le Pen attacked Intouchables, calling Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s film a manifestation of France’s progression toward an ethnically diverse state. The National Front party leader is notorious for his xenophobic and often racist remarks.
“France is like this handicapped person stuck in this wheelchair, and we are going to have to wait for the help of these suburb youngsters and the immigration in general. I don’t subscribe to this point of view,” Le Pen said. “It’s a movie, a novel. And we have to take it that way and not like an example for the future. It would be a disaster if France would find itself in the same situation as this poor handicapped person.”
Le Pen’s daughter, Marine, is currently running for President of France and is fourth in pre-election national polls.
“That’s frightening to me, and I think it’s important to speak up and speak out against Le Pen and his ideas,” Weinstein said. He added: “That’s why I’m proud to bring Intouchables to American audiences. This movie is based on a true story, and it’s a funny, extremely entertaining illustration of how simple human connection trounces socioeconomic, religious and racial divides.”
The film is based on the true story of the unexpected friendship that develops between a wealthy paraplegic Parisian man and a young black ex-con from a tough suburban neighborhood who comes to take care of him.
Intouchables had sold more than 19 million tickets in its home country of France where it is the second highest grossing film of all time. TWC also has acquired remake rights to co-finance and co-produce an English language version with Gaumont and the film’s original producers Quad Films.
To date, the film has earned more than $248 million worldwide to date. It’s been a surprise hit in Germany where the film is still number one at the box office with 5.53 million admissions and $40 million in box office revenue.
“A beautiful, human story doesn’t need to stop at the border, especially if it stars two exceptional actors who act for each other,” directors Toledano and Nakache told The Hollywood Reporter.
Unlike Le Pen, Toledano and Nakache don’t see the film as misrepresenting the reality of France’s current socioeconomic circumstances. “Of course we don’t live at Disneyworld and we’re conscious of the fact that it’s a very optimistic movie, but to those who prefer to highlight the oppositions and tensions, we only have one answer: it’s a true story! This friendship was improbable and even so it existed : that’s what makes the story universal,” they said.
Intouchables will premiere for the first time for U.S. audiences on Thursday night at Lincoln Center to kick off Unifrance’s Rendez-Vous with French cinema festival at Alice Tully Hall. It opens in theaters May 25.
Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy were nominated for Best Actor Cesar awards for Intouchables. Sy, this year’s big screen breakout star in France, took home the prize, beating even Artist star and Oscar winner Jean Dujardin in the category and becoming the first black actor in France to take home the prestigious award.
Weinstein has been hailed as a national hero in France this week as the country credits him with helping to push The Artist to Oscar victory at Sunday’s ceremony.