"A big runaway truck of a man." That is how one of Gérard Depardieu's directors referred to the actor. And she liked him. Nowadays, he not only physically embodies that description; it serves as a pretty good definition of his temperament, too.
Only a couple of weeks ago he was arrested for riding a scooter around Paris while drunk. The police reckoned he might have had a few after he fell off the bike. A few months before that, a motorist filed a legal complaint for assault and battery against the Frenchman, whom he alleged had punched him in the face during a road-rage incident.
Perhaps it should be little surprise that the actor has a little of the devil in him, given that he once admitted to drinking five to six bottles of wine a day. Though even that would have been pushing it as an excuse when last year he urinated in the aisle on a plane after being barred from going to the toilet because the flight was due to take off.
Yet his behaviour has most often been met with a Gallic shrug from his compatriots – he is who he is, goes the argument, and he wouldn't be so magnifique were he bound by traditional modes of decency. Until now.
For last week he was the cause of a political storm when it emerged that he has quit la belle France for, apparently, la plus belle Belgique. Specifically, a small town 800 yards from the French border. And, seemingly, to dodge a 75 per cent top tax rate expected to come into force next year. Although Depardieu hasn't commented on why he's selling his €50m (£40.7m) Paris mansion, he has opposed the tax rise in the past. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault labelled the move "shabby", and suggested he was shirking his patriotic responsibilities, while the liberal newspaper Libération excoriated the actor's "absence of moral sense".
As for us, well, even though we've got our own tax-avoiders to worry about, we just can't forgive him for those awful Asterix films.