56 French stars defend actor Gerard Depardieu despite sexual misconduct allegations

More than 50 French performers, writers and producers published an essay on Tuesday (Dec 26) defending film star and national icon Gerard Depardieu amid growing scrutiny of his behaviour towards women during his five-decade career. Advocates for sexual abuse victims expressed dismay at the outpouring of support.

Depardieu was handed preliminary rape and sexual assault charges in 2020 following allegations from actor Charlotte Arnould, and has been accused by more than a dozen other women of harassing, groping or sexually assaulting them. Depardieu denies wrongdoing, and called the essay “beautiful”.

Published Tuesday in the conservative-leaning Le Figaro, it was signed by figures including former first lady and singer Carla Bruni, Depardieu’s former partner Carole Bousquet, and actors Pierre Richard, Charlotte Rampling and Victoria Abril. Two dozen of the 56 signatories were women. Many are from Depardieu’s generation; he is 74.

A recent documentary outlined accusations of sexual misconduct by 16 women against Depardieu, and showed the actor making obscene remarks and gestures during a 2018 trip to North Korea. The France-2 documentary prompted calls by some to stop airing Depardieu’s films, which include classics of modern French cinema.

In response, Tuesday’s essay says: “We cannot remain silent in the face of the lynching targeting him, the torrent of hate being dumped on his personality.

“When Gerard Depardieu is targeted this way, it is the art (of cinema) that is being attacked,” it said. “France owes him so much. … Depriving ourselves of this immense actor would be a drama, a defeat. The death of the art. Our art.”

Paris lawmaker and feminist Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu said the signatories are experiencing a “denial of reality”. She said she would have preferred for them to support initiatives against sexual violence instead.

“They are refusing to see what this man did … because he is an artist,” she told broadcaster France-Info.

Emmanuelle Dancourt, whose #MeTooMedia group supports sexual misconduct victims in the media industry, said on BFM television that the essay’s message is particularly painful for victims of sexual abuse by powerful men.

French President Emmanuel Macron also drew ire when he said last week that Depardieu “makes France proud″.

The recent documentary includes a segment where Depardieu is heard making crude sexual comments about a young girl riding a horse. Macron suggested that the segment could have been edited in a misleading way. France Televisions, which broadcast the documentary, later said that the segment in question was authenticated by a bailiff who viewed the raw footage.

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