Fifty figures from the French entertainment world signed an open letter published Monday defending actor Gérard Depardieu as he faces more than a dozen rape and sexual assault allegations spanning two decades. Most of the accusations have come from those he worked with, with one actress saying his reputation in the film industry is well known and well-deserved. “Anyone who has ever worked with him knows he assaults women,” she said.
A total of 56 French performers, producers and writers — two dozen of them women — published an open letter Tuesday defending colleague Gerard Depardieu amid allegations of sexual abuse during his five-decade career.
The stars included singer and former French first lady Carla Bruni, Depardieu’s former partner Carole Bousquet, and actors Pierre Richard, Charlotte Rampling and Victoria Abril, many of them from the same generation as the 74-year-old actor.
More than a dozen women have accused the star of harassment, groping or sexual assault — charges Depardieu has denied.
The signatories of Tuesday’s open letter, which was published in conservative outlet Le Figaro, defended Depardieu’s artistic contribution to the country and world culture, and decried the “lynching” of the acclaimed actor.
A documentary released earlier this month, “Depardieu: The Fall of an Ogre,” contained footage of a 2018 trip to North Korea during which Depardieu made obscene gestures. The film, screened on French TV Dec. 7, also claimed that he has been accused of sexual misconduct by 16 women.
In fallout from the documentary, some critics have called for scrapping Depardieu’s films from the airwaves, even though they’re some of the most beloved classics in modern French cinema. His defenders decried the loss to culture that would entail.
“We cannot remain silent in the face of the lynching targeting him, the torrent of hate being dumped on his personality,” the signatories of the letter wrote. “When Gerard Depardieu is targeted this way, it is the art (of cinema) that is being attacked. France owes him so much…. Depriving ourselves of this immense actor would be a drama, a defeat. The death of the art. Our art.”
Emmanuelle Debever, who co-starred with Depardieu in the 1983 historical drama “Danton” when she was 19 and he was in his 30s, was among his earliest accusers. Debever said on Facebook in 2019 that Depardieu had groped her during filming. She died at age 60 on Dec. 14 after apparently jumping from a bridge into the Seine River at the end of November. Her death is being investigated, though authorities have reportedly classified it as a suicide.
Another accuser, actress Charlotte Arnould, said he raped her in 2018 when she was 22. Her rape allegations were at first pursued, then dropped in 2019, and then reinstated in 2021. That investigation is ongoing. None of the other women filed criminal complaints.
The letter’s signatories are in denial, said Paris lawmaker and feminist Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu.
“They are refusing to see what this man did,” she told broadcaster France-Info, “because he is an artist.”
With News Wire Services
Gérard Depardieu is one of France's most famous actors. © AFP file photo