Lars von Trier, the Danish director of the Kirsten Dunst film "Melancholia," says he is a Nazi and sympathizes with Adolf Hitler.
Von Trier made his announcement at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival in France at a recent event to promote the movie, which features Dunst appearing in a nude scene. He later apologized for his remarks and said in an interview with the Associated Press that he had been joking and did not think people took his comments seriously.
"I really wanted to be a Jew, and then I found out that I was really a Nazi, because, you know, my family was German," the news wire quoted von Trier as saying. "Which also gave me some pleasure."
"What can I say? I understand Hitler, but I think he did some wrong things, yes, absolutely," he added. "But I can see him sitting in his bunker in the end. He's not what you would call a good guy, but 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."
More than six million Jews died in the Nazi Holocaust spearheaded by Hitler during World War II, which ran between 1939 and 1945.
"I am very much for Jews," von Trier added. "No, not too much, because Israel is a pain in the (expletive) ... How can I get out of this sentence? OK, I'm a Nazi."
Dunst and some of her co-stars, including Charlotte Gainsbourg, who were sitting alongside von Trier, "stared at him agog" and the audience seemed shocked as he made his comments, the Hollywood Reporter said.
The Associated Press said that at one point, Dunst leaned over and whispered to von Trier, "Oh my God, this is terrible."
When asked if he would like to do a film on a larger scale, Von Trier told the accidence: "Yes. We Nazis like to do things on a big scale. Maybe I could do 'The Final Solution.'"
Later on Wednesday, the director said in a statement carried by the Reuters news wire: "If I have hurt someone this morning by the words I said at the press conference, I sincerely apologize. I am not anti-Semitic or racially prejudiced in any way, nor am I a Nazi."
He also told the the Associated Press: "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. 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?"
Dunst said the director "likes to run his mouth," adding: "I think he dug himself in a deep hole today."
Von Trier is also known for his 2000 drama "Dancer in the Dark." In "Melancholia," which also stars Kiefer Sutherland, Dunst plays a depressed woman whose relationship with her sister (Gainsbourg) is challenged as a nearby planet threatens to collide with Earth. The movie earned "polite applause" after a screening at Cannes, the Associated Press said.