Actor Gerard Depardieu reportedly detained over alleged sexual assault

Paris — French police on Monday detained screen actor Gerard Depardieu for questioning after two women accused him of sexual assault, a source close to the case said. The 75-year-old actor, who has made more than 200 films and television series, was charged with rape in 2020 and was forced to put his career on hold last autumn as allegations of sexual harassment and assault mounted against him. He denies any wrongdoing.

Police were to question Depardieu over allegations from two women that he assaulted them on film sets, one in 2021 and the other in 2014, a police source said, confirming a report by the BFMTV television channel.

The actor’s lawyers, Christian Saint-Palais and Beatrice Geissmann Achille, did not immediately reply to a request from AFP for comment.

FILE PHOTO: Gerard Depardieu waves as he arrives during a red carpet event for the movie
Actor Gerard Depardieu waves as he arrives during a red carpet event for the movie “Novecento- Atto Primo,” at the 74th Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Sept. 5, 2017.

Alessandro Bianchi/REUTERS

The first woman accuses him of having assaulted her when she was a member of the crew on the 2022 feature film “The Green Shutters”.

The set designer, who filed a formal complaint in February, told investigative website Mediapart that Depardieu grabbed her as she left the set in a private hotel in Paris.

She alleged he groped her “waist and stomach, moving up to (her) breasts” and made obscene comments before his bodyguards removed him.

The woman’s lawyer, Carine Durrieu-Diebolt, declined to provide AFP with further details.

The second woman has alleged Depardieu groped her “all over” and made “inappropriate” remarks while she was an assistant on the set of 2015 film “Le magician et le Siamois” (“The Magician and the Siamese”), she told regional newspaper Le Courrier de l’Ouest.

Depardieu already faces a rape charge, as well as claims of assault from more than a dozen women — all of which he has strongly denied.

“Never ever have I abused a woman,” Depardieu wrote in Le Figaro newspaper in October.

Police in 2020 charged Depardieu with rape and sexual assault after actor Charlotte Arnould alleged he raped her in 2018 when she was 22 and anorexic.

Another sexual assault complaint filed last year by actor Helene Darras, who said Depardieu groped and propositioned her during a 2007 film shoot, has been dropped for being past the statute of limitations.

Spanish journalist and author Ruth Baza said in December she had filed a criminal complaint in her home country against Depardieu, alleging he raped her in 1995 in Paris.

Despite the events having passed the statute of limitations, she said she decided to file her complaint in the hope that it would “help other people” to do the same.

Depardieu had long made headlines for antics such as socialising with the leaders of Russia and Belarus, obtaining a Russian passport to protest against a planned tax hike in France, and delaying a 2011 flight after urinating into a bottle that overflowed.

But debate over whether to show his films intensified at the end of last year after a television report showed the actor repeatedly making obscene comments in the presence of a female interpreter during a 2018 trip to North Korea.

His wax sculpture was hurriedly removed from the Musee Grevin waxwork museum in Paris and Canada’s Quebec region stripped him of its top honour.

Actor Anouk Grinberg, a co-star to Depardieu on “The Green Shutters”, has described how she and others on set were “treated to his salacious nonsense from morning to night”.

“When film producers hire Depardieu on a film, they know they are hiring an aggressor,” she told AFP.

Grinberg said producers of “The Green Shutters” had supposedly appointed someone to deal with harassment issues but that she did nothing.

French cinema has in recent months been rocked by allegations that it has shrugged off sexism and sexual abuse for decades.

Depardieu’s case has exposed a major split in French cinema and wider society, with some defending his right to “presumption of innocence” and others supporting his accusers.

President Emmanuel Macron sparked an outcry in December when he defended the “immense actor” as innocent until proven guilty and insinuated he was the victim of a “manhunt”.

Macron later added that he should have emphasised the importance of women speaking up.

Actor Judith Godreche, 52, has become a leading voice in France’s #MeToo movement after accusing two film directors of abusing her as an underage teenager.

Speaking in the upper house of parliament in February, she urged the authorities to reform the French cinema industry to protect young actresses from sexual violence.

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