Miramax Films co-chairman Harvey Weinstein became the unwitting talking point of this year's Cannes Film Festival after poking fun at Jean Labadie, the head of French distribution house Bac Films and also Miramax's regular theatrical partner in the territory.
Taking the microphone at this year's annual luncheon held by Miramax International for its overseas distributors, Weinstein made a point of singling out Daniel Battsek, head of Buena Vista International (UK), on the successful opening of Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Weinstein went so far as to ask Battsek to stand up and take a round of applause..
Then Weinstein asked Labadie to stand up. "Look at Daniel Battsek, Jean. I want you to understand what a good distributor is." Guests laughed nervously as Weinstein reeled out how well Battsek and other Miramax distributors had done with Chocolat. "But in France where the movie's stars Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp live, Jean could only do $2m," he joked.
Weinstein then went on to present Labadie with a bread roll, or, as he dubbed it, The Harvey Weinstein Award which will be presented annually from now on - presumably to the least impressive distributor. Labadie accepted the roll but then threw it right back at the imposing Harvey.
But as soon as news of the jibe spread along the Croisette, courtesy of a front page article in Screen International, the Miramax chief realised his gaffe and went on a charm offensive.
He personally called Screen to explain that he wasn't serious. "I'm resigning as a comedian," said Weinstein. "I'm going to get better material. We love this guy. Miramax owns 5% of the publicly traded shares in Bac, so I'd be the last guy to mean anything bad. When Reservoir Dogs opened in the UK and did better than we did, Quentin [Tarantino] joked about what a bad job I did."
Tarantino, in Cannes for the lunchtime presentation of the Prix Chopard du Producteur to his producer Lawrence Bender, also chimed in. "We love Jean Labadie," the former Palme d'Or winner told Screen. "He loves my movies with tender, loving care. This isn't bravado. It's truth. We love him."
Labadie apparently took all of this unexpected attention in his stride - and gratefully accepted the champagne that came his way from the offices of Miramax.