US film director Larry Clark has had his latest work withdrawn from its inaugural showing in Britain, after starting a fight in which he tried to choke his British distributor.
Ken Park was due to have its first screening at the London film festival on Saturday. The London-based distribution group, Metro Tartan, withdrew it after he assaulted the head of the company, Hamish McAlpine.
The company is considering whether it will distribute the movie - which features scenes of violent, incestuous sex - while Mr McAlpine is taking legal advice on whether to sue the maverick director for libel in the wake of the altercation.
The fracas broke out at 10pm on Thursday night, at the restaurant of the Charlotte Street hotel in north Soho, as a party of 14 from Metro Tartan held a dinner in honour of the director, at which they were to discuss interviews to be held next day.
Before the main course had been served, Mr Clark, 59, suddenly took offence during a discussion that is understood to have been about politics. He stood up, threw a punch at Mr McAlpine, 47, who was sitting opposite, kicked over a table, jumped on the distributor, and had his hands around his throat before the two were separated.
Police were called and Mr Clark was taken to a London police station, where he is understood to have spent four hours before being released with a caution. Mr McAlpine was taken to a nearby hospital's casualty but suffered no lasting damage.
Last night, Laura De Casto, managing editor of Metro Tartan, who was sitting next to Mr McAlpine, said: "It all happened so suddenly, as they had a discussion about politics. I saw Mr Clark stand up, throw a punch at Mr McAlpine, kick the table over, jump at him on the ground, and start choking him, before two chefs came out of the kitchen and pulled them apart."
Carrie Wicks, director of operations for Firmdale Hotels, said: "We have an open-plan kitchen, and so my staff jumped in and separated them. I wouldn't like to think what would have happened if they hadn't. Larry Clark was certainly determined, and he did create damage."
The director was asked to leave the hotel on Friday, with Metro Tartan refusing to pay for him to stay longer. All press interviews were cancelled.
The distributor then took the decision to withdraw the film from the festival, on the grounds that it could not condone such behaviour. "Neither myself nor my staff could condone someone exhibiting such behaviour," said Ms De Casto.
Last night, Mr Clark, best-known for Kids, which charted an Aids-ridden skateboarder's predilection for deflowering 13-year-olds, was unavailable for comment.
He had told the Observer he was "hugely disappointed" by the decision to withdraw the film. "I'd never normally fight someone - it's not in my nature. If Hamish wants to get his own back, I'll tie my hands behind my back and he can have a few free punches. But to take it out on my film is just absurd."
Mr McAlpine was yesterday recovering in the country, and is understood to be considering legal action over a claim by Mr Clark that the fight had been sparked by a row over September 11, in which it was alleged that Mr McAlpine made anti-US and other comments.
Mr Clark spent 19 months in a maximum security jail in the late 1970s for a variety of offences, including shooting someone in the arm.
· The London Film Festival programme runs until November 21 at the National Film Theatre and various other venues. Further details can be found at www.rlff.com