Actor Gérard Depardieu – most recently seen in Ang Lee’s excellent cinematic adaptation of Yann Martell’s book “Life of Pi” as a slob-like ships’s cook – is due in court next Tuesday in Paris to face charges of drunk-driving.
Depardieu is very reluctant to appear before the law, however. The self-declared tax exile was recently presented to the Russian public as a new star Russian citizen, following a surprise decree on January 3rd.
Back in October, the French actor joked that he had already packed his bags “the day after the (French presidential) elections were decided” and it was a clear that a socialist regime intent on exacting taxes on the super-rich would soon be in power.
President Hollande made good on his pre-election promise of imposing a 75% tax rate on annual earnings over €1 million. Although the law has been declared “unconstitutional” by the French Constitutional Council, Depardieu had already de-camped across the border into Belgium. He pointed out that he was already living half the year abroad in any case. Moreover, he said, he could count on at least three countries that would welcome him: Belgium, Montenegro (where he has friends and does business) and Russia.
At the time of his departure from the locale in Paris that was his home for a number of years, Depardieu promised that he would return regularly to “party” and joked that “Putin has already sent me a passport!” Those words said in jest turned out to be self-fulfilling prophesy when the Russian president simply couldn’t resist the temptation to grant the Frenchman (who is a very popular figure in Russia) full citizenship.
But back in France, the chain of events has provoked a lot of soul-searching amongst the cinematic community. French cinema is in a very healthy state and is supported by a heavily-subsidised system that keeps artists in work and ensures that the country turns out a huge output of high-quality films every year. It is one of the very few countries in Europe that manages to out-box-office American imports with their own films some years.Some actors have reacted with disappointment to Depardieu’s behaviour and regard it as an act of betrayal while others have questioned the logic of the 75% tax rate. A-list actor Philippe Torreton (to be seen later this year in Michel Gondry’s highly-anticipated “L’Ecume des Jours”) has struck out against his fellow-actor. In an open letter, the César-winning actor asks rhetorically “So, Gérard.. did you think that we’d approve of all this?” in reference to Depardieu’s appeal to the French president and tax authorities not to proceed with the historically high tax rate. “The problem with your little off-road ventures,” continues Torreton, “is that they always end up in the same ditch – the one of ‘me, me, me!’; the one of dirty cash, of dictator pals, of heavy farts, of mid-air urinations and ultra-liberal outbursts.”
Meanwhile, Depardieu’s legal representative Éric de Caumont is expected to submit a “guilty” plea to the charges levelled against his 64-year-old client of driving under the influence in the hope that it won’t involved a journey to France. The lawyer said that he was unsure as to whether or not “professional obligations” would allow his client to attend the hearing on Tuesday next but that he would appear on his behalf in any case.