I still love France, says Gerard Depardieu as he hosts Belgian housewarming


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The Independent Online

There was singing, steak and suckling pig at the weekend as the French actor, Gerard Depardieu, threw a house-warming barbecue in his new home town of Néchin, insisting it was not French tax rates but his globe-trotting soul that brought him a mile over the border to Belgium.

Hours after the mayor of Estaimpuis municipality in western Belgian declared Depardieu an honorary citizen, the star of Asterix & Obelix and Green Card opened the grounds of his five-bedroom château to 200 friends, neighbours and local officials.

They were treated to a feast of cold meats, cheese, T-bone steaks and suckling pig, all washed down with copious beer and wine, Belgian media reported. Photos showed a well-fed Depardieu entertaining beaming locals in a tent. “I love coming here to Néchin for its calm, and the Belgians are very friendly,” said Depardieu, 64, who moved to Belgium last year after the Socialist government of President Francois Hollande announced plans for a new 75 per cent wealth tax.

Depardieu’s move stirred controversy in France, and once again last week the actor was on the defensive, telling Le Figaro, that his move to a village about a mile over the border had been misinterpreted. “I never left [France]. I refuse to be shut in by borders, that’s completely different,” he said. “This whole story is a big misunderstanding... I love France as much as ever. It’s my country.”

But France has been struggling lately to reciprocate the actor’s love. It’s not just his choice of residence which has irked his compatriots.

In June he was fined €4,000 (£3,430) for his driving his scooter while under the influence of alcohol. In 2011 has was forced to apologise after being thrown off an aircraft for urinating in the cabin.