Over the course of his long career, the veteran French actor Gérard Depardieu has been showered with numerous awards and nominations. He’s been nominated once for an Oscar and fifteen times for the César (France’s answer to the Oscar). He won the Golden Globe in 1991 for his role in Green Card as the unlikely love interest of Andie MacDowell. He’s also won best actor awards at the Cannes and Venice film festivals. He’s been named a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur.
And he’s won one other major prize – the friendship of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
In June, we wrote about a Moscow event back in December 2010 at which Depardieu – along with a number of other screen idols, among them Sharon Stone, Goldie Hawn, and Mickey Rourke – partied into the night with Vladimir Putin.
But Depardieu appears to be especially close to the Kremlin leader. And this relationship has already won him yet another prize: in 2013, after Depardieu criticized his homeland, the Republic of France, for its high tax rates, Putin arranged for him to have a Russian passport. Depardieu snapped it up gratefully – and gleefully.
“I adore my Russian passport,” he has said. “I feel very Russian inside.”
He’s been a good friend to Putin. For example, he made comments suggesting that he fully supported his pal’s annexation of Crimea. In July, Ivan Kirilenko, Ukraine’s culture minister, reacted to his remarks by banning Depardieu from entering his country.
Flash forward to early October, when Depardieu had what was apparently a wide-ranging interview with Russian journalists. True to form, he wasn’t shy. Among other things, he expressed remarkable contempt for American culture. (This, as pointed out by many Western reporters who’ve passed along bits of his disparaging rant, from an actor who in Peter Weir’s Green Card “played a man willing to do anything to live in the USA.”)
One excerpt of Depardieu’s wisdom: “I have never wanted to be a U.S. citizen. That’s totally out of the question. They have a very aggressive culture. And I don’t like U.S. films.” This from an actor who’s accepted generous paychecks for appearing in several of them.
Here’s more: “The U.S.? They’re a people who have constantly destroyed others. They fought each other, destroyed the Indians, after that they perpetrated slavery, then there was the Civil War.” Then “they were the first to use the atomic bomb. Everywhere they go, they cause shit.” This from a Frenchman who was born in 1948, three years after American soldiers liberated his country from the Nazis.
(There’s no indication, by the way, that he said anything to those Russian reporters about some of the rather questionable activities of Napoleon, Stalin, and other familiar names from French and Russian history.)
Depardieu also told his Russian interlocutors that he “prefers being Russian.” Not that he lives there. Some confusion seems to surround the question of where exactly he is currently domiciled. In September, he informed reporters that he planned to unload all his possessions in France – including a vineyard in the Loire Valley and a couple of restaurants in Paris. He’s now reportedly in Italy, although he’s also suggested that he might pack his things and relocate to Belarus. Why? One reason, he’s said, is that the vile autocrat who runs Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko – who is famously known as “Europe’s last dictator,” and who, if anything, is an even more transparent and unsavory thug than Putin – is a “nice guy.”
Well, nice to Depardieu, anyway. This summer the two of them went out into the Belarusian countryside and scythed grass together. Pictures of their bucolic adventure, published in the Guardian, made them look like a chummy pair indeed.
That friendship, as it happens, has also paid off handsomely for Depardieu. In late September, the Hollywood Reporter noted that Lukashenko was kicking in $2 million to help finance a World War II film, Normandie-Niemen, starring the French actor. It’s good to have friends, n’est-ce pas?