Listen to the article

Gérard Depardieu, a sacred monster of French cinema, finds himself today in the midst of a storm, accused of sexual assault. A look back at the tumultuous trajectory of an extraordinary actor.

Gérard Depardieu, a name that resonates like thunder in the French cinematic landscape, finds himself today at the heart of a scandal that shakes his image. The man who brilliantly portrayed Cyrano de Bergerac, a character with a prominent nose and a sharp wit, now faces serious accusations of sexual assault. A striking contrast emerges between the actor and his famous role: while Cyrano, despite the trials he faces, maintains his nobility and commands admiration, Depardieu now finds himself pointed at accusingly, moving away from the aura of his character.

With more than 200 films to his credit, Depardieu has long been one of the most recognizable faces of French cinema worldwide. His raw talent, overflowing charisma, and fiery temperament earned him the admiration of the public and his peers. Yet, on the cusp of his 70s, the Depardieu edifice begins to crack.

The recent release of footage shot in North Korea, where the actor makes obscene statements towards women and a young girl, has accelerated his downfall. Despite the unwavering support of President Macron, who still sees in him a “tremendous actor” who “makes France proud,” public sympathy is waning.

But Depardieu’s legal troubles don’t end there. Two women are accusing him of sexual violence, including a set designer on the set of Les Volets verts in 2021. The actor, placed in police custody on Monday in Paris, must now answer these accusations before the courts.

This case recalls another controversy that erupted in the early 1990s, when old statements by Depardieu seemingly admitting to “rapes” in his childhood resurfaced. Although the translation of these remarks was disputed by the actor, the damage was done, compromising his career in Hollywood.

Beyond the accusations of sexual assault, it is Depardieu’s entire personality that is being called into question. Known for his taste for provocation and his outrageous, even violent behavior, particularly towards women, the actor can no longer hide behind the image of a bon vivant. His lewd and misogynistic remarks, long tolerated, now appear in a much darker light.

Faced with this media storm, Depardieu attempts a clumsy defense. In an open letter, he assures that he has “never, ever abused a woman” and regrets having “behaved like a child who wants to entertain the gallery.” These apologies struggle to convince, as they seem out of step with the seriousness of the accusations.

Beyond the legal proceedings, it is Depardieu’s entire relationship with France that is being questioned. The man who surrendered his passport in 2012 to protest against the taxation of the wealthy, before going into tax exile in Belgium and acquiring a Russian citizenship, has an ambivalent relationship with his native country. His open admiration for authoritarian regimes, from North Korea to Putin’s Russia, casts an additional shadow over his reputation.

Today, Gérard Depardieu’s future seems more uncertain than ever. Excluded from film promotions, forced to put his career on hold, he faces a media and legal trial that risks permanently tarnishing his image. From Cyrano to Depardieu, the fall is dizzying for this giant of French cinema. It remains to be seen whether, like his famous character, he will find the words to redeem himself in the eyes of the public and the courts, when he is judged in October 2024.