The director’s new film, By the Grace of God, retells the story of a paedophile priest. Ozon reveals how the victims’ stories unlocked his own painful memory

For most film directors, the nail-biting action unfolds on screen. Not, however, for François Ozon. The theatrics over his latest film played out in the French courts as he fought a last-minute attempt to stop it being released and found himself at the centre of a legal and national controversy. Today, Ozon can almost but not quite laugh about his starring role in the off-screen drama that earlier this year came perilously close to having his €5.9m (£5.2m) film By the Grace of God – the story of a real-life scandal involving a paedophile priest – canned.

“I suppose I was naive to think there wouldn’t be attempts to stop it coming out,” he says. “There was huge tension over the court case and we really didn’t know if the film could be released. The judgment was on the Tuesday; the film was due out on the Wednesday. We only knew the decision the night before.

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