Gerard Depardieu to Play Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev

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Gerard Depardieu

The French actor, who has taken on Russian citizenship to avoid taxes, will star in a Czech/Slovak film centered on the events of the Prague Spring in 1968, when Brezhnev sent in Soviet tanks to crush liberalizing reforms initiated by Czechoslovakian leader Alexander Dubcek.

Gerard Depardieu, the Oscar-nominated French actor who took on Russian citizenship to avoid paying taxes in his home country, is set to star as the Soviet Union's leader Leonid Brezhnev in a new film set during the Prague Spring uprising of 1968.

Slovak writer Karol Hlavka is working on the script of a yet untitled film, which is to be directed by Croatian helmer Lordan Zafranovic (Occupation in 26 Pictures). The movie will focus on Alexander Dubcek, the leader of Czechoslovakia who, in 1968, embarked on a series of reforms to the communist system aimed at liberalizing political life in the country. Brezhnev, however, brutally crushed the reforms by sending Soviet troops to Prague to clamp down on dissidents. Budgeted at $11.2 million (10 million euros), the film is set to deliver in late 2021.

Andrej Antonio Leka, the film's producer, told the Czech radio station Frekvencе 1 that Depardieu had signed on to play Brezhnev. He added that a "globally known" actor would portray Dubcek but declined to give further details, saying negotiations were still ongoing.

Depardieu famously took on Russian citizenship and official residence in Russia to avoid paying French taxes. Last year, however, the actor changed his residence within Russia, after local authorities accused him of not paying back taxes. Russian state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported that Depardieu is now registered in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. 

After obtaining Russian citizenship in January 2013, via a direct decree from Russian president Vladimir Putin, Depardieu was originally registered in the city of Saransk, the capital of the Mordovia region in Central Russia.

However, this past summer, Mordovia’s federal service of court marshals complained that Depardieu owed back taxes. Under Russian laws, tax authorities can confiscate a debtor’s possessions or property, but Depardieu owns no assets in the Mordovia region. The only known property he owns in Russia is, reportedly, a luxury apartment in Chechnya’s capital Grozny, which was given to him by the regional dictator Ramzan Kadyrov.