BERLIN (REUTERS) – Actor Jeremy Irons said on Thursday (Feb 20) he fully supported same-sex marriage and the women’s rights movement as he sought to dispel criticism over his role as president of the Berlinale film festival prize jury.

The choice of the British actor as head of the panel was criticised in German newspapers and the movie press, who highlighted past comments attributed to him on gay marriage, inappropriate touching of women and abortion.

One critic noted it would have sufficed “to put the words Jeremy Irons and Me Too” into a search engine to establish his inappropriateness.

“I should like – not as the jury president, but on a personal level – to address various comments that I have reportedly made in the past, and which have resurfaced in certain sections of the press over the past few weeks,” he said.

“I wish I didn’t have to take up time with this, but I don’t want it to continue as a distraction to the Berlinale.”

Devised in the aftermath of World War II in a divided city on the frontline of the Cold War, the Berlinale is seen as the most overtly political of the major film festivals, highlighting films that champion progressive causes.

“I support wholeheartedly the global movement to address the inequality of women’s rights,” Irons told the opening news conference of the 70th Berlinale, adding that he was also a supporter of same-sex marriage and of women’s right to abortion.

“These three human rights are, I believe, essential steps towards a civilised and humane society, for which we should all continue to strive.”

He said: “I hope that some of the films we will be watching will address these problems.”

The festival opens on Thursday with Canadian director Philippe Falardeau’s My Salinger Year, in which Margaret Qualley stars opposite Sigourney Weaver as an ambitious young woman eager to forge a career as a writer in 1990s New York.

In all, 18 films are competing for the Golden Bear prize chosen by Irons’ panel.

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