When the French actor Gérard Depardieu packed his bags and headed over the border to set up home in Belgium last year, everyone assumed he was trying to escape a new 75 per cent wealth tax introduced by President François Hollande.
But the star of Cyrano de Bergerac has told a Belgian television station it was the quality of meat at the local butcher, among other attractions, that lured him to the village of Néchin, just a stone’s throw from France.
“They say I moved here for tax reasons – that is not quite true,” Depardieu told Notélé TV, before going on to list what he loved about Néchin (including being friends with the mayor and the local charcuterie). His ambition? “I want to have a restaurant, as I like to eat. Aged meat, very tender.”
For good bread, however, he said he would have to nip over the border. And Belgian bakers were not the only people he took a swipe at.
“I feel that the [French] government does not do its job. It is his [Mr Hollande’s] first time, he has never held a ministerial post before,” Depardieu said, adding: “I think the French are fed up.”
In the interview from his well-stocked kitchen, Depardieu sported a padded gilet emblazoned with the logo of Russia, a double-headed eagle. Since his flight from his homeland, the actor has accepted Russian citizenship and also spent time in Chechnya as the guest of its President, Ramzan Kadyrov.
Mr Kadyrov has been accused of personal involvement in torture and human-rights abuses – allegations he denies. And Depardieu seemed to agree, insisting: “He is not a dictator… he defends himself, that’s all.”