UPDATE: von Trier has issued an apology at the behest of the organizers of the Cannes Film Festival.
“If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize. I am not antisemitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi," the director said in a statement.
Lars von Trier has a hit with his new movie at Cannes, but it was his press conference that is making headlines.
The maverick Danish director, who is receiving accolades for his Kirsten Dunst-starring apocalyptic tale "Melancholia," is no stranger to outrageous statements -- in 2005, he said President Bush dreams of being spanked by Condeleezza Rice -- shocked the assembled press with his answer to a question about his interest in the Nazi aesthetic.
"The only thing I can tell you is that I thought I was a Jew for a long time and was very happy being a Jew, then later on came [Danish and Jewish director] Susanne Bier, and suddenly I wasn't so happy about being a Jew. That was a joke. Sorry. But it turned out that I was not a Jew. If I'd been a Jew, then I would be a second-wave Jew, a kind of a new-wave Jew, but anyway, I really wanted to be a Jew and then I found out that I was really a Nazi. Because my family was German... which also gave me some pleasure. So I'm kind of a... What can I say? I understand Hitler. But I think he did some wrong things, yes absolutely, but I can see him sitting in his bunker. But there will come a point, at the end of this... I'm just saying, I think I understand the man. He's not what you would call a good guy, but yeah, I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit. But come on, I'm not for the Second World War, and I'm not against Jews... I am of course, very much for Jews. No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the ass. But still, how can I get out of this sentence? No, I just want to say about the art, I'm very much for Speer. Albert Speer, I liked. He was also maybe one of God's best children. He had some talent that was kind of possible for him to use... okay, I'm a Nazi."
The press were both shocked and laughed at von Trier's comments, though Dunst was more mortified than anything; at one point, she hid behind the director and said, "Oh, God!" in agony.
To top it off, he also offered that he was planning on making a long porn film with Dunst and co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg, and that perhaps his next film would be a movie take on "The Final Solution."
After the press conference, he made sure to clarify to the Associated Press that he was largely kidding about his comments.
"I don't have so much to say, so I kind of have to improvise a little and just to let the feelings I have kind of come out into words," von Trier said. "This whole Nazi thing, I don't know where it came from, but you spend a lot of time in Germany, you sometimes want to feel a little free and just talk about this (expletive), you know?"
As for Melancholia, it's in contention for the top prize, with critics raving about its take on the end of the world.