MOSCOW — Gallic actor Gerard Depardieu’s PR-heavy return to Russia – where he is due to shoot a revenge thriller Turquoise set in Chechnya — has continued on a controversial tone when he spoke out about the Boston bombers.
Depardieu, who arrived in Chechen capital Grozny with co-star British actress Elizabeth Hurley, said the ethnic-Chechen Tsarnaev brothers accused of carrying out last month’s bombing in which three people died and more than 260 were injured, had been raised American and the outrage could not be blamed on Chechnya.
The actor, who earlier this year took Russian citizenship to avoid planned wealth taxes of 75 percent in France – and is now reported to have signed up for a special 6 percent flat tax rate designed for entrepreneurs, said: “I was in the United States when the terrorist act was carried out in Boston. I agree with [Chechen president] Ramzan Kadyrov, who said that the Tsarnaev brothers have a Chechen last name but their upbringing is American. You Chechens don’t carry any responsibility at all.”
His comments came just hours before the FBI shot and killed a Chechen man who was being questioned in connection with the Boston bombings.
An FBI agent shot and killed Ibragim Todashev, 27, in Orlando, Florida, early Wednesday when the victim allegedly attacked him while being questioned at home. Todashev is understood to have been questioned about his alleged ties to Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Depardieu’s remarks Tuesday, at a press conference where he was seen socializing with Kadyrov, came just days after his arrival in Russia when he had compared Russian president Vladimir Putin to staunch anti-Communist Pope Jean Paul II, seemed designed to draw more attention to his movie projects in Russia.
Turqoise is a French production directed by Philippe Martinez and produced by Arnaud Frilley, which started shooting in Grozny Saturday.
Depardieu plays an ex-gangster whose son is killed and comes to Russia to avenge him, where he meets up with an old girlfriend, played by Hurley and a Chechen friend.
Depardieu is also starring in a Russian film Serdtse Otsa (A Father’s Heart), also set in Chechnya. It centers on the reconstruction of Chechnya following two wars which the then breakaway republic had with Russia in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.
The French actors friendship with Kadyrov – who has been accused of widespread human rights abuses and murder, made for an uncomfortable exchange with members of the international press who flew to Grozny to meet Depardieu.
Martinez flew into a rage when asked to comment on parallels between the film’s revenge theme and alleged revenge killings of Kadyrov’s enemies.
“I am ashamed you are asking that question,” Martinez said according the British newspaper The Independent – which is owned by former Russian KGB officer Alexander Lebedev. “Gerard Depardieu and Elizabeth Hurley are making a movie in Chechnya! And you’re asking questions of a political nature! I don’t event want to answer.”