The Last Rebel
Why Gerard Depardieu matters:
Depardieu is a vastly different proposition from a wealthy tycoon and former asset-stripper whose children’s weddings warrant 10-page spreads in society magazines. When Jean-Marc Ayrault, France’s prime minister, contemptuously called him “a pathetic loser”, Depardieu shot back with an open letter published on Sunday. “I was born in 1948,” he wrote, “I started working aged 14, as a printer, as a warehouseman, then as an actor, and I’ve always paid my taxes.” Over 45 years, Depardieu said, he had paid 145 million euros in tax, and to this day employs 80 people. Last year he paid taxes amounting to 85 per cent of his income. “I am neither worthy of pity nor admirable, but I shall not be called 'pathetic’,” he concluded, saying that he was sending back his French passport.He's a tax rebel, and perhaps one of the last larger-than-life figures of our time. Maybe that's why they're so mad at him.
Depardieu is excessive in every way, but he’s never been a hypocrite: there have been no stints in rehab after one too many drunken brawls; no staged acts of contrition at any moment of his chaotic private life; no tabloid-monitored diets or fitness regimes. A working-class boy with no formal training but a miraculous gift for bringing to life the most complex nuances of almost every character he has played, he manages to make the classics as accessible as Asterix. He has made over 170 movies and given memorable stage performances – his Tartuffe, the protagonist of Molière’s eponymous play, ranks up there with Louis Jouvet’s historic 1950 performance, exposing the vulnerability and vertiginous loss of control of a devout hypocrite usually played for laughs. He makes his own wine from his own vineyards, owns two restaurants, has written cookbooks of hearty traditional French cuisine. He is, perhaps, a compendium of what the French most aspire to be, taken to epic heights.