A new investigation has alleged that French actor Gérard Depardieu engaged in many instances of sexually inappropriate behaviour over the course of his career.
The findings of a months-long investigation into Depardieu’s on-set behaviour during a nearly 20-year period concluding last year, and were published on Wednesday 12 April by the French investigative website Mediapart.
The investigation, which includes the testimony of 13 women, claims that Depardieu engaged in several instances of lewd remarks, touching and behaviour on the sets of well-known TV shows and movies, including the Netflix series Marseille, the historical drama Dumas and the comedy Big House.
Depardieu declined to respond to the findings, although his lawyers have denied any wrongdoing. Here is everything you need to know about him.
Who is Gérard Depardieu?
Gérard Depardieu is a French actor and filmmaker known for his raw, powerful performances and his larger-than-life personality. Born in Châteauroux, France in 1948, Depardieu began his acting career in the 1970s and quickly gained a reputation as one of the most talented and versatile actors of his generation.
Throughout his career, Depardieu has appeared in over 200 films, including classics such as The Last Metro, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Jean de Florette. He has also worked in international films like Green Card, 1492: Conquest of Paradise and Life of Pi.
He has been recognised with numerous awards, including a César Award for Best Actor, a Golden Globe Award and a Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award. But despite his considerable talent and achievements, Depardieu has also been involved in numerous controversies throughout his career.
In 1990, he infamously urinated on the floor of a plane after being told he could not use the bathroom during takeoff. In 2011, he was accused of sexual assault by a young actress, although the charges were later dropped.
In 2012, he publicly declared his intention to give up his French citizenship and move to Belgium to avoid high taxes, sparking a national debate about tax policy and patriotism. He later moved to Russia and was granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin.
In 2016, the government in UKraine - where Depardieu has been a controversial figure since the country’s 2014 revolution and subsequent conflict with Russia - banned the screening of several films featuring Depardieu due to his public support for Russia and his close relationship with Putin. He was also placed on a Ukrainian blacklist of individuals considered a threat to national security.
In 2018, then 22-year-old actress Charlotte Arnould accused Depardieu of sexual assault and rape. The alleged incident was said to have occurred at Depardieu’s Paris home, and the actress filed a complaint with the police shortly afterwards.
The details of the alleged assault were not made public, but the actress had known Depardieu for some time - she is the daughter of a friend of Depardieu - and that he had invited her to his home to rehearse for a play.
The actress later said that she had felt “humiliated and scared” by the incident and had decided to come forward to encourage other women to speak out against sexual harassment and assault.
Depardieu denied the allegations, and his lawyer released a statement saying that he “absolutely denies any rape, any sexual assault, any crime.” Depardieu also filed a counter-complaint against the actress, accusing her of slander and defamation.
In early 2019, it was reported that the case had been dropped due to a lack of evidence. The Paris prosecutor’s office said that the investigation had not been able to “establish the materiality of the facts” alleged by the actress. Depardieu’s lawyer hailed the decision as a “victory for the presumption of innocence”, but the case was reopened in the summer of 2020, and charges were brought against Depardieu that December.
After Depardieu's unsuccessful attempt to have the charges - which he “completely rejects” - dismissed, the case is currently advancing through the French courts.
What are the new findings?
The actor is accused of engaging in unwanted touching and groping of young female actors, makeup artists and set technicians, as well as making vulgar remarks and "persistent groaning noises." Other staff members appear to have largely ignored such actions and frequently dismissed them as just a peculiarity to be tolerated.
11 of the 20 producers or directors contacted by Mediapart gave a response, and all but one of them claimed to be unaware of any claims of similar behaviour on their sets.
Depardieu appeared in the films Disco (2008) and Turf (2013), both of which were directed by Fabien Onteniente. On their first project together, the casting director warned Onteniente that the actor was "getting heavy with the girls.”
Five years later, Onteniente claims he approached the actor after hearing similar on-set claims, telling him: “Don’t start that again, it’s over! Behave yourself.”