The Tangled Life Of Gerard Depardieu

The following references sexual assault allegations.

Gérard Depardieu, an international film star with over 200 acting credits to his name, will always remain quintessentially French, with an appetite for wine and gourmet food as big as his boisterous personality. The actor maintains an astounding work ethic, starring in multiple films every year while also being an international businessman with interests in a wide variety of industries. With his talents compared to those of Robert De Niro, Depardieu has proven he can do any genre, tackling dramas, period pieces, comedies, thrillers, at least one animated feature, and more. 

But Depardieu is no mere caricature of a Gallic thespian bon vivant, he's a deeply complex man whose life has not been without controversy and tragedy. Depardieu clawed his way out of a childhood marked by extreme poverty and petty crime, and after his career took off, his personal life continued to take a number of rough turns. Let's delve into the tangled life of Gérard Depardieu. Or, as the French would say, allons-y. 

His childhood was shaped by instability and poverty

Gérard Depardieu's ascent to global film stardom had very humble beginnings. Born in 1948, he grew up impoverished in Châteauroux, France, with his five siblings and parents. Depardieu's father was a quiet man who could not read, struggled with alcohol use, and had a hard time making ends meet as a sheet metal worker. The future celebrity's parents could provide little materially for their family, and giving emotional affection proved difficult for the couple as well. Reflecting on his mother and father, the actor told The New York Times in 1990, "They could never say, 'Je t'aime'; and I rarely saw them touch each other."

Despite his difficult domestic circumstances, the young Depardieu had personal ambition. He left school at age 13 and he worked legitimate jobs in a bakery and in a printing plant, but soon Depardieu drifted into the world of petty crime and street boxing. Eventually, he served time for his petty crime, with Depardieu writing in his autobiography "Ca s'est fait comme ça" that he spent three weeks in jail for stealing a car, as per the Daily Mail. However, this might be one of the tall tales Depardieu likes to weave about himself. As The Guardian noted in a 2005 profile, his stint behind bars actually only lasted a few days.

His acting career sprung from a desire to express himself

Gérard Depardieu's path to acting had a very American twist. He grew up near the U.S. Air Force base located on the edge of Châteauroux, France. At the time, it was the largest U.S. Air Force base in Europe and it was a social and economic center for the community. Young Depardieu, left to his own devices by his parents, hung out often near the base, and was introduced to the vast world of American feature films. Depardieu recalled in a 1990 chat with The New York Times, "I soaked up everything. It was like being on an aircraft carrier on an uncharted sea.”

When he was in his late teens, Depardieu and a friend headed to Paris and began taking acting classes. Per The Guardian, after working with an esteemed teacher and a speech therapist, things began to click into place for the future movie star. Depardieu told The Washington Post of his acting ambitions, "I had a great desire to express myself, and it was stronger than any wish to sink." Arriving at drama school was a revelation for the emotionally deprived Depardieu. He said to Time, "When I arrived in my first drama class and heard the words Je t'aime, I thought, 'There are people who can say that!'"

Gérard Depardieu's unrelenting work ethic

Thanks to his extensive filmography, Gérard Depardieu has garnered a sizable reputation for his prolific cinematic work ethic. He's starred in everything from serious drama to light-hearted comedy, both in film and on television and in the 1980s, Gérard was known to appear in as many as six films per year. At the time, Gérard seemed to be motivated by interesting projects rather than giant paydays. He told the Los Angeles Times in 1989, "It's better not to get paid a lot. I don't want to have to make movies just to pay taxes."

Indeed, Gérard loves to work. In 1990, he told the Los Angeles Times of his work ethic, "I know it sounds strange, but I like a strict schedule. That's when I really feel free." But by 2000, Gérard's relentless schedule seemed to have caught up with him: Following a quintuple bypass surgery, he was supposed to take a break from work. Said break didn't last more than a few weeks. Some might admire his dedication to his craft, but others, like his ex-wife, Élisabeth Depardieu, have a different opinion. She told The Guardian in 2005, "Gérard needs to be loved all the time, and loved totally. He always has inside him the root of a lack of love, which makes him work and work and work ... he makes terrible demands on himself."

An Oscar nomination and a concerning interview

In the late '80s, Gérard Depardieu was already one of France's most celebrated actors of his day. He pursued Hollywood stardom with his first major English language film "Green Card" in 1990. The flick proved to be a modest box office success. That same year, Depardieu starred in French language film "Cyrano De Bergerac," a role for which he won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival and a César Award, and he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar at the 63rd Academy Awards.

Depardieu's acting in "Cyrano" received plenty of praise and accolades, but an interview he did during awards season in 1991 stirred up Hollywood controversy. In an interview with Time, Depardieu was asked to clarify something he said in a 1978 interview with Film Comment magazine about committing sexual assault as minor. He was quoted as saying, "I had plenty of rapes, too many to count." When Time brought this up, he reportedly confirmed his remarks and added, "But it was absolutely normal in those circumstances. That was part of my childhood." Depardieu soon renounced the Time interview. In a statement published by Time, he said, "It is perhaps accurate to say that I had sexual experiences at an early age, but rape – never. I respect women too much." His team protected their client, maintaining that Depardieu's intent was lost in translation. Depardieu threatened to sue the magazine over the interview. Time magazine stood by their reporting. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Gérard Depardieu's troubled relationship with his son

Gérard Depardieu's oldest son, Guillaume Depardieu, led a life that was clouded by the intense shadow of his world-famous father. Guillaume also worked as an actor, yet he didn't like to be asked about his famous dad. Taking on the profession was a way for Guillaume to work out his feelings toward the elder Depardieu, whose intense work schedule meant that he was often not at home. Not only did Guillaume become an actor like his father, he also found himself embroiled in criminal activity starting at age 16. As per The Guardian, Guillaume was arrested for heroin dealing in 1992, serving jail time for the crime. He found himself in legal trouble again for drunk driving and for threatening a man with a gun. All the while, Guillaume suffered serious health setbacks after a 1995 motorcycle accident, the complications of which led to him having his leg partially amputated.

Amid his numerous struggles, Guillaume struggled to make a name for himself as an actor. He died in 2008 from pneumonia at the age of 37. In his 2004 book "Tout Donner" (via The Guardian), Guillaume wrote of the elder Depardieu, "I love him and I hate him for the same reasons. For his impotence. For his way of fleeing life, and existence, and fighting against it at the same time."

His prolific business interests span the world

Gérard Depardieu is not just a prolific actor, he's an expansive businessman. At one point, his passport listed his profession as "acteur/vigneron," so even on government documents, Depardieu hasn't billed himself for just one job. Making his "vigneron" title official, he's had vineyards in France, Morocco, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Algeria, and Ukraine. In addition to owning vineyards around the world, Depardieu has reportedly had interest in Cuban oil wells and various businesses in Romania (albeit he denied the Romanian side hustles on "The Graham Norton Show.")

Depardieu's passion for food led him to purchase the Parisian restaurant La Fontaine Gaillon. He meticulously restored the space and soon it became a foodie hotspot for gourmands in the know. He also owned a fishmonger and a wine bar, among other food-related enterprises. Of course, Depardieu doesn't run it all alone, as he has a network of business associates. And as the Independent noted in a 2011 profile of the actor, he makes a point to stay involved with his other endeavors even when he's busy with his main job, even requesting that his costumes feature enough pockets for his cell phones so he can be reached whenever need be. 

His relationship with food and wine

Gérard Depardieu is known for his extreme consumption, and love, of both food and wine. He has owned several restaurants, including the celebrated Parisian haunt La Fontaine Gaillon. He's also a cookbook author and food show host. Given his very public embrace of decadent food, Depardieu's weight fluctuation has been the topic of conversation for decades. He's been compared to Hollywood icon Marlon Brando, whose changing body weight was heavily scrutinized by the media. But Depardieu remains unbothered by the attention. He said in the Los Angeles Times in 1992, "Oh, this body. I'm not obsessed by my weight. I like people to accept me the way I am. I try to keep healthy, you know, but... "

As for wine, Depardieu's love for the beverage borders on the absurd. He told So Film in 2021, "I can't drink like a normal person. I can absorb 12, 13, 14 bottles...per day." However, his bacchanalian ways have gotten him in trouble with the law. In 1990, he received a suspended prison term after a drunk driving incident in central France. He was again arrested for drunk driving in 2012, wherein his license was suspended and he paid a fine. In an interview with French Inter radio (via The Guardian), Depardieu said of his legendary penchant for consumption, "I don't always drink alcohol, despite my reputation. I live for life and living makes me drunk."

He left France as a tax exile and got a Russian passport

In 2012, Gérard Depardieu stirred up a national controversy when he left France for Belgium as a tax exile in protest of a new tax on France's ultra-wealthy. He moved to the small border town of Néchin, a known locale for French folks looking for a strategic tax break. Depardieu penned an open letter about the tax. In an English translation published by The New York Times, Depardieu decried Hollande's tax policy and relinquished his passport and his Social Security. He wrote, "I am leaving, after paying a tax rate of 85 percent on my 2012 income. But I am keeping the spirit of this France that was so beautiful and that I hope will always be."

While Hollande's tax was never instituted, Depardieu had moved on from his home country. In 2013, in an interview with "Le Journal du Dimanche" (via The Hollywood Reporter), he said, "I consider myself a free man and a citizen of the world." Amidst the tax drama, Reuters reported Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested the actor relocate to his country and seek out their flat income tax rate. In 2013, Depardieu obtained a Russian passport from Putin. Sure, Depardieu embraced his new Russian life, but he still had trouble with the tax authorities. In 2018, after complaints of back taxes were levied against Depardieu, he changed residency within the country, relocating from Mordovia to Siberia.

Gérard Depardieu's beef with Juliette Binoche

Gérard Depardieu has worked with a litany of actors, including Academy Award-winning French actor Juliette Binoche. At one point in her career, she was France's highest-paid female actor,but Depardieu seemingly had no admiration for her when he bashed her in a 2010 interview. He told Austrian magazine Profil (via The Guardian) of Binoche, "Please can you explain to me what the secret of this actress is meant to be?" He added, "I would really like to know why she has been so esteemed for so many years. She has nothing. Absolutely nothing!"

In response to the interview, Binoche fired back at Depardieu in a chat with the BBC. She said, "Disappointing wouldn't be the right word. I'm surprised, I have to say, because I don't know him and I don't know what I did to him." Binoche wondered if he simply resented the acclaim she'd gotten for her performance in 2010's "Certified Copy"  

Binoche said months after the interview that she and Depardieu exchanged words about what he said. She told The Guardian that he didn't exactly apologize, attributing his words to his feelings toward directors. But Binoche sensed there was more to it. She said, "I think he was feeling jealous because I'd just received the award in Cannes. He was hurt because I had made him deal with too many things." Evidently, they were able to put their drama aside for their chosen craft: In 2017, they both appeared in Claire Denis' film "Let the Sunshine In."

The time Gérard Depardieu peed on an airplane

In 2011, Gérard Depardieu made global headlines (and became a worldwide punchline), when he peed on the carpet of an Air France flight. The incident happened while Depardieu was on board a CityJet regional flight scheduled from Paris to Dublin. According to Reuters, passenger reports stated that Depardieu appeared to be intoxicated and wanted to use the bathroom during takeoff. When a flight attendant refused Depardieu's request, he urinated in the aisle. Depardieu's behavior caused the plane to return to the gate. The flight was delayed several hours while the mess was cleaned up. Depardieu's "Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia" co-star Edouard Baer explained what happened on Europe 1 radio (via Reuters), sharing Depardieu's prostate issues led to him urinating in a bottle, which accidentally overflowed onto the carpet.

While he didn't deny peeing on the plane, Depardieu's explanation of the incident to The Independent UK was slightly different than eyewitnesses. According to Depardieu, after the flight had been delayed 45 minutes and he was blocked from using the restroom by the flight attendant, he took matters into his own hands and peed in a bottle. The absurdity of the incident was the butt of jokes, giving newspaper headline writers plenty of fodder and inspired Anderson Cooper's pun-filled monologue on his show "Anderson Cooper 360." It's nice to know that even serious journalists can sometimes have a middle school-level sense of humor.

His friendships with controversial world leaders

Gérard Depardieu has friends in controversial places, and over the years he's been spotted palling around with world leaders like Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Depardieu and Castro bonded over their love of food, with Castro gifting Depardieu rum and Depardieu attending Castro's birthday celebrations in 2006. When asked about his connections to Castro and Putin, Depardieu told So Film in 2021, "These guys aren't dictators, they're very intelligent people." Depardieu has also been close with Chechen political leader and accused human rights violator Ramzan Kadyrov. He was filmed hitting the dance floor with Kadyrov, shot movies in the region, and was gifted a luxury apartment by Kadyrov. 

Depardieu's friendliness with Putin started during Depardieu's tax exile drama he told Russian television station Channel One (via The New York Times), "I love your president, Vladimir Putin, very much and it's mutual." But sometimes friendships wain, and in 2022, Depardieu publicly opposed Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He told Agence France-Presse, "Russia and Ukraine have always been brother countries." He added, "I am against this fratricidal war. I say 'stop the weapons and negotiate.'" Depardieu has also been spotted in North Korea. He was photographed attending the country's 70th anniversary celebration. Although it's unclear if he was a guest of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Depardieu wasn't setting the record straight, as he refused to speak to journalists at the event. 

He faces numerous sexual misconduct allegations

In recent years, Gérard Depardieu has been accused of sexual misconduct. In 2020, Depardieu was charged with rape and sexual assault. The charges were tied to an alleged incident that took place in 2018, and the original investigation was dropped in 2019. However, when it was picked up again by French authorities in 2020, it led to criminal charges against Depardieu. In 2022, a French court rejected Depardieu's request to have the charges against him dropped. As of 2023, the case is moving forward in French courts.

In 2023, Depardieu was accused of sexual misconduct by 13 women in an investigation conducted by Mediapart. The alleged misconduct took place on various film sets on which Depardieu worked during the 2010s and 2020s. Accounts of Depardieu's behavior include multiple incidents of inappropriate and unwanted touching of film extras. Depardieu's legal team denied the accusations; a statement published in Variety said he had no intention to address them publicly. As of the publication of this article, no legal charges have been filed against Depardieu stemming from the Mediapart investigation. However, one person has given their account to the French justice system.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).