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ROME — Controversial France-born actor Gerard Depardieu, who recently renounced his French citizenship in a bid to avoid a hefty income tax bill, is in trouble in Italy, where he could face arrest or fines.
The 65-year-old Depardieu, who was nominated for an Oscar for his work as the title character in Jean-Paul Rapperneau‘s 1990 version of Cyrano de Bergerac, said he was displeased by the election of French President Francois Hollande in 2012 because Hollande promised income tax rates as high as 75 percent on the wealthiest French citizens.
To avoid the tax, Depardieu took up residence in Belgium, just across the border from the French city of Lille, and then renounced his French citizenship to become a citizen of Russia. He returned to Paris from Russia last week to appear in a seven-performance run at the Theatre Antoine — his first Paris stage appearance in a decade. The actor had been spending time in Italy in between performances in Paris.
An Italian wire agency and other media reported that the 65-year-old actor had a run-in with a local restaurateur in the historical center of Lecce, in southern Italy, where he owns a home. Depardieu said the restaurateur was making too much noise.
Depardieu reportedly tried to bully the restaurant owner before spraying water on the owner and patrons of the establishment for several minutes, sparking a call to the police who said the actor could face arrest or fines if he clashed with the restaurant owner again.
Depardieu remains one of the most recognizable actors in Europe, though in recent years he has become better known for his off-screen antics than for his performances.
After last Saturday’s performance in Paris, he refused to sign autographs before pushing through the applauding crowd to mount his scooter and drive away. Last year, he was fined and had his license suspended for driving his scooter while intoxicated, with a blood-alcohol level nearly four times the legal limit.
Previously, in 2012, he was detailed for assault for punching a motorist in Paris, and the year before that he was kicked off a Paris-to-Dublin flight for threatening the cabin crew and urinating in the aisle as the plane was preparing to take off.
The actor has said he would like to retire from acting soon, although he has multiple projects in the works. At least seven Depardieu films are scheduled for release this year, with the most prominent of them being Abel Ferrara‘s Welcome to New York, in which Depardieu will play the role of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF chief and would-be French president whose career was finished by a lurid sex scandal with a maid in a New York hotel.
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