FinnHalligan@hotmail.com Morgan Freeman told an amused assembly of hacks this week: 'The worst mistake I ever made was Driving Miss Daisy. I became this wise, old, dignified black man and it caught on so quickly.' (Make that a wise, old, dignified Oscar-winning black man: he deservedly won.) Freeman, who is certainly dignified and black, was wisely steering clear of what's about to become a touchstone issue in Hollywood right now - much more so than the threatened writer's strike, which is forcing studios to secretly speed movies into production (probably before they're ready). He was asked, at the Deauville Film Festival in France this week, about his views on renowned Hollywood-basher and vice-presidential hopeful Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Now the 'issue' of sex and violence in the movies is as old as the Hays Code (a code of film conduct self-imposed by Hollywood in the 1920s), and just as dull. Hollywood keeps on making movies with lashings of violence, which audiences love and Congress hates. Every now and then - after a Columbine High School shooting tragedy, or in an election year, for example - Congress and Hollywood engage in a verbal ding-dong before they snooze off back to no man's land. (Meanwhile, I don't think I've seen 'proper' sex on screen since Basic Instinct. And they couldn't - wouldn't dare - make that now.) After a sweetie schmooze-fest with President Bill Clinton for the past eight years, Hollywood has rudely woken up to the fact that Hollywood-bashing Lieberman is now on the Democratic ticket. And with Al Gore, whom they don't particularly like, despite the fact he was allegedly the inspiration for Ryan O'Neal's character in Love Story (Gore roomed with Tommy Lee Jones at Harvard). But since the announcement, there's been an ominous silence - broken quite spectacularly at the festival by Paul Verhoeven (right), the Dutch director of Robocop, Showgirls, Starship Troopers and (opening in Hong Kong today) Hollow Man. Now, Verhoeven is a funny man. I once asked him what was cut out of Basic Instinct and he waggled his tongue at me salaciously. He's also - understandably, given his films - controversial. Standing on stage to open the festival, he declared: 'Senator Joseph Lieberman says there should be more God in our lives. Well, I'd like to dedicate this film, and tonight, to the devil. To the evil which is just as prevalent in the world today as good.' There was an audible gasp during which the interpreter did an Oscar-winning interpretation of panique. Hollow Man's star, Kevin Bacon, stood back. The French-speaking officials looked bewildered. The crowd - I'm sure without fully comprehending what was said - roared its approval. 'Oh, great,' I thought. 'I'm at a satanic rally.' Then everybody laughed half-heartedly. The next day, Verhoeven was unabashed. 'I left my own country in 1985 because the government refused to give me subsidies which I needed to make films,' he said. 'But in the US, I am constantly attacked. There's a puritanical culture which prevails in America today - I never thought it would happen in such a society. I guess I am more than a little tired. I'll probably have to leave the US too now. Oh, well, I guess when you're hated at least you know you're alive. In Griffin Dunne's movie Famous, starring Mira Sorvino, screened the following day, there's a cut to Lieberman addressing Congress in an anti-Hollywood speech which is designed to make the politician look ridiculous and grasping (this was made, however, long before the senator ascended to the Democratic ticket). Will he fight back? Will a conflicted Hollywood (pro-Jewish but anti-Lieberman) use its (considerable) power to turn him into a figure of fun? Watch this space. Mind you, as Hollywood provides America with its second-largest export, the ancillary benefits of which are incalculable (in terms of tourism, for example), divorce is not on the cards for this marriage made in, as Verhoeven might say, hell. This War of the Roses is sure to spawn a sequel.