The actor Gérard Depardieu described France today as an “almost Bolshevik” country and rejected Western criticism of his adopted homelands Russia and Chechnya.
In his first lengthy press interview since he announced six months ago that he was “sending back” his French passport, Mr Depardieu said he now saw himself as a “citizen of the world”. He hoped eventually to acquire seven nationalities, he said, including that of Algeria where he owns a vineyard.
Last December the actor engaged in a public slanging match with the Socialist government in France after announcing that he intended to live in Belgium to avoid high French taxes. In his interview yesterday with the Journal du Dimanche, he denied that he was a “tax exile”. He said that he still paid 30 per cent of his income in French taxes – but not the 87 per cent that he claimed he would have to pay if he lived full-time in his native country.
Although much criticised in France – for his frequent drunkenness as much as his alleged “exile” – Mr Depardieu said he was still popular with much of the French public. “I have an image that the French like,” he said. “A rebel, who overturns things, who is sometimes drunk. It’s this hooligan side of me which I think also attracts [the Russian President] Vladimir Putin.”
Challenged on his friendship with Mr Putin, a man whose human rights record is criticised in the West, he said: “I don’t agree with what people say in France about Russia and Chechnya. You have to go and see for yourself and live there to know the truth.”
France, he said, was “almost a Bolshevik country”, in view of the “hidden scandals” such as that of the former Budget minister Jerome Cahuzac, who avoided taxes by having an illegal bank account abroad.
“There are other scandals. Why don’t journalists go and look for them? In Russia, I assure you, those things [topics open to investigative journalism] are not controlled, contrary to what people say.”
Mr Depardieu was tried in his absence last month for being drunk while riding his scooter in Paris. The verdict is expected later this month. He is now making a movie based on the arrest two years ago of the French politician and former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn for the alleged attempted rape of a chambermaid in a New York hotel room.
Despite his passport threat, he remains a French as well as a Russian citizen and appears to spend as much time in France as ever. He also has a home and a business base in Belgium but has never – contrary to his claims – applied for Belgian citizenship.
“I know that I love the French people and that I have never left them,” he said. “I was born here with nothing and for the last 30 years I have employed 100 people.”
Asked about the political situation, Mr Depardieu said he had no interest in politics but retained an affection for the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. “Sarkozy was rejected by the French press,” he said. “[President François] Hollande has been rejected by the French people.”