Gerard Depardieu to Star in Two Films Set in Chechnya

Gerard Depardieu Citizenship and Tax Controversy

French movie star Gerard Depardieu has in the past made headlines with his conservative political views and his decision to pee on an airplane. Just in time for the holiday season, he caused a political and media firestorm by moving to a border town in Belgium to avoid higher taxes. In France, the top rate of income tax is scheduled to rise to 75 percent in 2013. Some celebrities have opposed the higher tax on the rich promoted by president Francois Hollande. In an open letter, the Oscar-nominated actor later responded to criticism and threatened to hand back his French passport in protest.

The French actor and new Russian resident is to play a gangster alongside British actress Elizabeth Hurley in one of the upcoming projects.

Gerard Depardieu, who obtained a Russian citizenship and a residency in Mordovia’s capital Saransk earlier this year, is going to star in two films set in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya.

This month, the filming of Turquoise, directed by Philippe Martinez, is to begin in Grozny -- Chechnya's capital city -- and Moscow. In the action thriller, Depardieu is to star alongside British actress Elizabeth Hurley. She has already arrived in Moscow. “A good day meeting the French and Russian crew on the new movie, ‘Turquoise,’” she said on her Twitter account on May 16.

STORY: Gerard Depardieu Registers Residency in Russia

Depardieu is to play a former gangster, and Hurley’s character will be his lover.

The other film, Serdtse Otsa (A Father's Heart), is to be centered on the reconstruction of Chechnya following two wars which the then breakaway republic had with Russia in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.

The project was first mentioned last February when the actor visited the republic and met with its authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Depardieu said he wanted to make a film in Chechnya, and Kadyrov gave him a five-room apartment in Grozny.

Earlier this week, Le Monde reported that in the movie, Depardieu will play Chechnya’s former president Akhmat Kadyrov, Ramzan’s father, assassinated by Islamic terrorists in Grozny in 2004.

Later, that information was denied by Depardieu’s friend Nikolai Borodachev, director of the state film archive Gosfilmfond. “This is a totally different story, more like an action thriller,” he was quoted as saying by the Russian daily Izvestia. “Depardieu will be playing a positive Chechen character.”

In  the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chechnya broke away from Russia. The two countries then had two wars, ruled largely by Islamists. After the second one, Chechnya was brought back to Russia as a Russian republic.