Speaking in Venice this weekend, François Ozon has launched an impassioned defence of actor Gerard Depardieu, who co-stars in Ozon’s new film Potiche, a competition contender on the Lido.

Ozon’s remarks come in the wake of the feud between Depardieu and actress Juliette Binoche.

The spat between the two French stars has been widely covered in the UK press. In a recent interview, Depardieu was quoted as calling Binoche “an absolute nothing.” Binoche responded, telling BBC radio last week: “I understand that you don’t have to like everyone and you [can] dislike someone’s work. But I don’t understand the violence [of his words]. I think it has to do with himself. There’s something going on.”

Ozon called Depardieu (who didn’t attend Venice) “a genius, one of the most important actors in the world,” and suggested the recent press controversy was a storm in a teacup.

“Don’t worry about that. He was drunk and so what,” Ozon commented of Deaprdieu’s controversial remarks about his fellow French screen icon.

Ozon added that the controversy had been flamed because Depardieu’s quotes had been given to a magazine outside France.

“If he had said that in France, nobody would have noticed but if he said it in another country, everybody makes a big thing (of it),” Ozon said.

In Potiche, Depardieu plays a communist union leader. Cartherine Deneuve appears opposite him as a factory boss’s wife with whom he had an affair many years before. Ozon revealed that the ’70s-set comedy (one of the most well-received films in Venice’s competition thus far) contained many references to contemporary French politicians – and in particular to the sexist criticism that was aimed at Segolene Royal on the left and right when she stood against Sarkozy in the 2005 Presidential Campaign.

“At this moment, you saw the misogynist and male chauvinist (attitudes) of people coming back, and not specially from the right but from the left too,” he said.

Ozon added that he had no desire to work with President Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni, who recently played a cameo in Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris. Bruni’s sister Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi starred in Ozon’s 5X2 but when asked if he would consider casting Carla Bruni herself, Ozon replied: “no, absolutely not. I let (leave) her to Woody Allen. She is not my cup of tea.”