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Le Monde
Le Monde
16 Dec 2023

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The behavior of French cinema superstar Gérard Depardieu, charged with rape and facing new scrutiny after sexist comments were broadcast in a television documentary, "shames France," the culture minister said on Friday, December 16. Culture Minister Rima Abdul-Malak also said that the Grand Chancery of the Legion of Honor would initiate a "disciplinary procedure" to decide whether to strip Depardieu of the country's top honor.

Depardieu's lawyers, on Saturday, stated that he has made his Legion of Honour "available" to the minister. They questioned whether Abdul-Malak was "dealing a further blow (...) to an already agonizing presumption of innocence."

Depardieu, 74, was charged with rape in 2020 and has also faced 13 accusations of sexual harassment or assault. A documentary titled "The Fall of the Ogre" shows the actor on a 2018 trip to North Korea repeatedly making explicit sexual comments in the presence of a female interpreter and sexualizing a small girl riding a horse. It was aired last week on the France 2 public television channel.

"Directors will decide if he has roles in films in the future or not," Abdul-Malak told reporters in the southern town of Moissac. "I don't think he has many offers arriving now on his desk." She said the comments broadcast in the France 2 report were "absolutely shocking" and she was "disgusted" by his behavior.

She denounced "an attitude which is intended to be joking and provocative, but is in fact disrespectful and undignified and shames France, because he is a monument of cinema throughout the world."

Speaking on France 5, the culture minister indicated the actor might be stripped of the Legion of Honour he received from then-president Jacques Chirac in 1996. "A Legion of Honour distinguishes a man, an artist, an attitude, values," she said.

"It so happens that I spoke with the grand chancellor of the Legion of Honor, General [Francois] Lecointre," she said, adding that a "disciplinary procedure" would be initiated to decide whether the award should be revoked. "It will be up to them to decide," she said. "It's important to raise this issue." At the same time, she said the French would not stop watching films featuring Depardieu.

The actor has denied any wrongdoing. "Never ever have I abused a woman," he wrote in Le Figaro newspaper in October.

The Canadian province of Quebec on Wednesday stripped Depardieu of its top honor over his "scandalous" comments against women in the France 2 report.

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A Belgian municipality on Saturday stripped Depardieu of the title of honorary citizen. In a statement, the Belgium municipality of Estaimpuis said it was revoking the title given to Depardieu when he lived there in 2013. The local authorities said the comments by the actor broadcast on television "run counter to the values promoted by the municipality of Estaimpuis."

In the face of the growing controversy in France, Belgian media has reported that Depardieu has returned to live in the country in a village close to the French border. Depardieu's initial move to Belgium back in 2012 was heavily criticized in his homeland as it was viewed as a way of dodging the French tax system.

Part one of our series: Article réservé à nos abonnés Gérard Depardieu: The decline of a sacred monster of French cinema

Le Monde with AFP