PARIS — Olivier Barrot, Gilles Jacob’s erstwhile No. 2, on Wednesday broke the silence surrounding his departure from the Cannes Intl. Film Festival.
With typical French restraint, Barrot played down his 11th-hour split from the organization as a “miscasting”: “I am not an enemy of anyone, and certainly not of the festival,” he told Daily Variety. “Gilles Jacob is a very old friend of mine.”
Rumors had been circulating for several weeks that Barrot, hired months ago to be groomed as Jacob’s replacement, was on his way out.
Questions about his unexplained absence from a press conference at the fest’s Paris headquarters Tuesday were answered with a firm “no comment” from president Pierre Viot.
But on Wednesday at the studio where he produces the daily program “A Book a Day” for pubcaster France 3, Barrot was more loquacious.
Confirming that he had “definitely left” the fest, Barrot almost seemed to assume blame for not fitting in — while warning that he could not go into details about the split until lawyers for both sides come to a settlement.
“My feeling is that there was a sort of miscasting, a misunderstanding or whatever, but I am trying to behave like a gentleman.”
Barrot strongly denied speculation that his departure was in part due to disagreement with Jacob over U.S. films for the official selection. The U.S. has relatively scant representation in this year’s lineup.
“We have a lot to do with Hollywood, and we desperately need a more intimate relationship with Hollywood — we never disagreed about that,” Barrot insisted. Having been hired Feb. 1, he added, he had flown to the States barely a month later, as Jacob had wanted.
Barrot refused to speculate on who might take his place as Jacob’s right-hand man, saying he had “absolutely no idea.”
Jacob is due to replace Viot as president after next month’s festival, and had been expected to name a successor as artistic director, a position he has held for 22 years.