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French Producer: Press, Not Taxes Drove Gerard Depardieu Away

Gerard Depardieu

Arnaud Frilley says the star, who recently moved to Belgium and was granted Russian citizenship, told the French president that he was "disgusted" with the "terrible" media.

Gerard Depardieu decided to look for citizenship elsewhere, because he was disgusted with the French press rather than the country's tax policies, a producer and friend of the actor's has said in a TV interview.

The comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday granted the famous actor Russian citizenship. Late in the day, Depardieu said that he  was "pleased" about the citizenship offer, which was the latest development in an ongoing battle between the actor and the French government that started when Depardieu moved to a Belgian town near the French border late last year in what was widely seen as an attempt to avoid a planned increase in taxes.

Depardieu suggested overnight that he had spoken with French President Francois Hollande. The president's office confirmed to the Agence France Presse that the conversation took place, but declined to comment on the content.

Depardieu friend and Rasputin producer Arnaud Frilley shared some details of the conversation in an interview with TV network RTL. "They talked very calmly," he said, suggesting that the star highlighted anger about the press rather than taxes.

"[Depardieu] told him that he was disgusted, he felt that the press had become terrible and needed to step back," Frilley said about the conversation with Hollande.  "It is not on the tax side, but it is really on the nauseated side: they spit on those who succeed, on success, on initiative. In the end, you are fed up."

Asked if Hollande seemed to be listening to the actor's concerns, he added: "Yes. [Depardieu] is still a monument of France. A president is still sensitive to his people. He wanted to understand why, if the motivations were serious. Depardieu's explanations were admissible."

Asked if Depardieu may return to France, the producer said: “There is French in the heart of the French.”