CANNES, France - Lars von Trier, the award-winning director who was kicked out of the Cannes Film Festival for telling reporters he "understood" Hitler, was upended by his Danish sense of humor, he told Haaretz in an interview yesterday.

Von Trier caused an uproar at a press conference on Wednesday when he jokingly declared himself a Nazi. The 55-year-old was brought up thinking he was Jewish until his mother revealed his German heritage on her deathbed.

"I lived most of my life as a Jew. I wore a skullcap when I had to and laid stones on tombstones in cemeteries. My mother wasn't Jewish, but my father, or the man I thought was my father, was. But then I found out that my father wasn't my father and my real father was German," he told Haaretz.

"And instead of saying I was actually German at the news conference on Wednesday, in my characteristic haste and because I couldn't stand the man who turned out to be my biological father, despite my mother's telling me he was charming, I said with a kind of typical Danish humor that most people don't understand that I was a Nazi. But I'm not."

Von Trier's latest movie "Melancholia" is in competition in Cannes this year, and had been seen as a possible prize-winner before his remarks appeared to snuff out its chances.

"It was a stupid joke. But that's the kind of humor I use when I talk to my friends, who know me and know I'm not a Nazi. I apologize profoundly for offending people. It was not my intention. I've also offended Germans, when instead of saying 'German' I used the word 'Nazi,' as though every German is a Nazi," he said.