PARIS – Gerard Depardieu isn’t satisfied with being a self-described “Franco-Russian” actor since renouncing his French citizenship earlier this year. He now says that he has seven passports from several countries, and plans to apply for more in an effort to avoid visas.
“I consider myself a free man and a citizen of the world,” said the newly minted Russian.
Throughout December 2012 and January of this year, the former Oscar nominee engaged in a battle over a proposed supertax on the very rich that led to an exchange of public name-calling with Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and ultimately ended in Depardieu renouncing his French citizenship. The tax was never instituted, but the damage had been done and Depardieu had already left for snowier pastures.
Despite saying he would no longer speak to the press after he objected to the way he was portrayed during the imbroglio, he granted an in-depth interview with France’s Le Journal du Dimanche in which he credited his experience as an actor for preventing him from being hurt by the controversy. “An actor can’t be vexed by nature, so I’m not offended,” he said. “I am inoculated against what they can say about me.”
In the interview, he defended Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, and though he had previously slammed them in the press, called imprisoned political protestors Pussy Riot “courageous.”
The actor also speculated that his wild side explained his still-high approval ratings with the French public. “I think it corresponds to an image that the French love. Someone who is a bit of a rebel, who shakes things up, and is sometimes drunk. It’s a bit of this hooligan spirit which pleases Putin,” he said of his longtime friend. The Russian president fast-tracked Depardieu’s citizenship in a matter of days after he vowed to give up his French passport and welcomed him with open arms.
“[I’m] drunk sometimes, but my drunkenness is part of my excess,” he said. However he added: “I’ve never jeopardized investors.”
Though his decision to leave France was based on taxes, he claims to still pay business taxes here for his restaurants and wine business, as well as in Belgium where he has a home and business — and now in Russia, where he has also started new companies including an ecotourism business in his adopted countryside home of Saransk.
The formerly leftist actor also expressed admiration for authority. “I love the police, contrary to many people.” It was perhaps fitting then that police detained the actor on drunk driving charges last November after he fell off his scooter and was booked with a blood alcohol level over three times the legal limit.
A Paris court is expected to rule Friday on these charges, and prosecutors are asking for fines of $5,300 (€4,000) and a penalty on his license.