Gerard Depardieu Returns to France to Shoot Soccer Film

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Gerard Depardieu

The actor has not worked in France since becoming a Russian citizen in January.

PARIS – Embattled actor Gerard Depardieu has finally returned to France to work after becoming a Russian citizen in January and skipping a drunk-driving hearing here in June.

The Oscar-nominated actor is back for a three-week shoot of historical soccer script F2014, in which he will play FIFA founder Jules Rimet.

He has made it clear that he has no plans to live in the country since giving up his passport in a public war of words with the French government.

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"This is the first time I've filmed again in France. I've refused all French movies because people did not understand. I'm Russian and a Belgian resident. I live in Russia," Depardieu said in an interview with AFP.

"In 15 years, I have spent maybe only five months in France. Since December 2012, a month and a half. I am not escaping the taxman but the way governments use the money they take."

Depardieu's public spat with the government was over a proposed super-tax on the rich, which led to Depardieu and prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault calling each other "pathetic." The once-beloved actor faces a 63 percent disapproval rating due to his abandonment of France, according to a recent poll by newspaper Le Figaro.

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Since leaving his native country, the prolific actor has been no stranger to controversy, starring as Dominique Strauss-Kahn in Abel Ferrara's Welcome to New York, which chronicles the disgraced former IMF chief's arrest on rape charges. He's also filmed jewel heist story Turquoise in Chechnya, where he is close friends with the embattled Putin-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who is accused of multiple human rights violations.

Depardieu won't be able to drive during his three-week shoot here. Following a Nov. 2012 incident in which he fell off his scooter while intoxicated, he was found guilty of drunk driving in June after skipping several hearings. He was fined $5,290 (€4,000), and his license was suspended for six months.

Following Paris, the shoot will move to Switzerland and Brazil, aiming for a release to coincide with the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

F2014 is directed by Frederic Aubertin (Paris, je t'aime) and produced by French company Leuviah-Films.