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Gerard Depardieu Still Planning Belgium Move as French Court Overturns Wealth Tax

FRENCHMEN WHO MADE THE LEAP: Gerard Depardieu
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The actor has stirred debate with intentions to leave France to avoid a tax hike supported by president Francois Hollande.

PARIS - France’s highest court overtuned the 75 percent tax on the rich over the weekend, which had been at the center of a public battle between Oscar-nominated actor Gerard Depardieu and the government of president Francois Hollande.

Despite the court’s decision to block the tax before it was due to go into effect in 2013, the French actor says he will continue to pursue residency in neighboring Belgium. In a brief statement to right-leaning Le Parisien on Sunday, Depardieu said the court’s last-minute move “changes nothing” for him, as the Hollande government announced it will attempt to reinstate the tax again next fall.

“We must let them talk,” Depardieu said of the politicians.

The tax on income over €1 million ($1.3 million) was passed by the National Assembly in October, angering high-profile top earners such as Depardieu, culminating in a very public exchange of insults earlier this month after the film veteran vowed to give up his residency.

STORY: Brigitte Bardot Backs Gerard Depardieu in Tax Flight Battle

Depardieu’s planned flight from Paris to a small village less than half a mile across the Belgian border caused an uproar here, leading Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to call him “pathetic.”

Depardieu countered with a threat to turn in his French passport because of the insult.

"I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned," he said at the time.

A battle of op-eds and open letters in France’s newspapers soon followed, with other actors taking sides. Actor Philippe Torreton published an essay in Liberation, comparing him to a child having a tantrum on the playground.

Cinema legends such as Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Denueve quickly jumped in with statements of support for Depardieu. The Oscar-nominated Denueve, who co-starred with him in last year’s Potiche, implied that Torreton was simply jealous of Depardieu’s talent, stating that although she does not necessarily agree with Depardieu’s decision she defends his right to do so.

In reference to the French Revolution, she asked Torreton: "What would you have done in 1789? I tremble to think of it!"

The actor's move comes shortly after Bernard Arnault, CEO of luxury giant LVMH and France’s richest man, also incited public outrage by seeking to establish residency in Belgium. Pop singer Johnny Hallyday and actor Alain Delon have also left France for tax reasons. Depardieu’s 10-bedroom Parisian mansion remains on the market for €65 million ($49 million).