‘He wasn’t raping her’: Woody Allen defends Spanish football boss over World Cup kiss

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Director Woody Allen says Spanish football chief Luis Rubiales should not lose his job for forcibly kissing a player on the lips after the Women’s World Cup final, saying it was not like he murdered someone or burnt down a school.

“He wasn’t raping her,” the veteran American filmmaker said in an interview with Spanish newspaper El Mundo. “It was only a kiss and it was a friend. What’s wrong with that?”

Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn arrive for the world premiere of his new film at the Venice Film Festival.Credit: Getty Images Europe

Allen, 87, was interviewed ahead of his 50th film, Stroke of Luck, opening in Spanish cinemas later this month after a world premiere at the Venice Film Festival overnight. He was asked about an issue that is still hugely controversial in Spain since Rubiales kissed Jenni Hermoso after the team she captains won the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney.

Hermoso and her teammates described the kiss as unwanted and demeaning and Spain’s government has moved to oust Rubiales as president of the Spanish Football Federation. FIFA suspended him provisionally after the incident. He has insisted he was the victim of a smear campaign.

Allen said it seemed like, in the excitement of victory, “two people that knew each other hugged and he gave her a kiss.”

“The first thing I thought was that they didn’t hide,” he continued. “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?”

Allen said he did not know if Hermoso turned away or told him not to kiss her.

“Whatever the case, it’s difficult to understand that a person can lose their job and be penalised in that way for giving someone a kiss,” he said. “If it was inappropriate or too aggressive, you have to tell them clearly to not do that and he needs to apologise.

“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.”

When the journalist pointed out that Hermoso did not give her consent and that Rubiales was in a position of power as her boss, Allen doubled down.

“Yes, that that’s right,” he said. “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.

“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.”

Allen has continued to make films – Stroke of Luck is his first in French – despite a series of controversies that have included recurring allegations that he sexually abused daughter Dylan Farrow when she was a child, which he has always denied.

In 2020, publisher Hachette cancelled plans to release his autobiography Apropos of Nothing after protests by staff. It was quickly picked up and released by another company, Arcade Publishing.

Allen addressed those allegations, which have tarnished his filmmaking career, in another interview in Venice.

“The situation has been investigated by two … major investigative bodies,” he told the entertainment newspaper Variety. “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. There was nothing to it.

“The fact that it lingers on always makes me think that maybe people like the idea that it lingers on. You know, maybe there’s something appealing to people. But why? Why? I don’t know what you can do besides having it investigated, which they did so meticulously.”

Valérie Lemercier, Woody Allen and Lou de Laâge attend a photo call at the Venice Film Festival.Credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

Allen called cancel culture “all so silly”.

“I don’t know what it means to be cancelled,” he said. “I know that over the years everything has been the same for me …

“I write the script, raise the money, make the film, shoot it, edit it, it comes out. The difference is not from cancel culture. The difference is the way they present the films.”

Despite Allen’s protestations, there was a small demonstration against what protestors called the “rape culture” during the red carpet for Stroke of Luck in Venice.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, about 20 people, mostly women, shouted slogans like “no rape culture”; “we are speaking for those without a voice against the director predators”; “a rapist is not a sick man, he is the healthy son of patriarchy”; “No spotlight for rapist directors” and “The alpha male doesn’t exist”.

Email Garry Maddox at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @gmaddox.

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