Actor Gerard Depardieu personally intervened to persuade the Cannes Film Festival to show the FIFA-funded movie United Passions, which earned $607 in its US debut and reviews that branded it "pure cinematic excrement." Cannes director Thierry Fremaux said he initially rejected the movie, thinking it unworthy of the world-famous festival. But Depardieu, who plays World Cup creator Jules Rimet in the film, pressured 2014 festival organizers to rethink. "I rejected the film. At the beginning, I said 'Out of the question,' " Fremaux told the AP. "Then they said, 'Why not on the beach?' I said, 'Ah, the beach. Yes, it's a festival. It's football. It's the general public. OK.'" That open-air showing was enough to allow marketers to attach Cannes' palm-leaf logo and the prestigious words "official selection, festival de Cannes" to United Passions trailers and posters.
"Gerard Depardieu was very insistent. He really wanted us to show it," said Fremaux, speaking today. "I'm not saying we did it to keep him happy, but let's say that he insisted a lot." FIFA did not pay Cannes to show the movie, Fremaux added. The French actor has long ties with Cannes. In 1992, he presided over the jury that awards the festival's coveted Palme d'Or. He also has ties with Russia, the next World Cup host in 2018. Fremaux attended the beach showing with FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Depardieu in 2014. "I don't find the movie horrible at all. It should have been a television movie."