French actor Depardieu to be tried for sexual assault in October

AFP , Tuesday 30 Apr 2024

French screen legend Gerard Depardieu will go on trial for sexual assault in October, the Paris prosecutor said on Monday after police questioned the actor over claims made by two women, the latest in a litany of such charges.

Gerard Depardieu
French actor Gerard Depardieu (Photo: AFP)

The 75-year-old star, who has made more than 200 films and television series, was charged with rape in 2020 in a separate case 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.

After police questioned Depardieu on Monday, the Paris prosecutor said Depardieu would face charges over the assaults allegedly committed in September 2021 during the filming of "The Green Shutters" movie.

"Gerard Depardieu was given a summons to appear before the criminal court. He will be tried in October 2024 for sexual assaults likely to have been committed in September 2021 to the detriment of two victims, on the set of the film 'The Green Shutters'," said a statement.

Earlier, Depardieu was questioned, and later released, over allegations from two women that he assaulted them on film sets, one in 2021 and the other in 2014.

The first woman accuses Depardieu of assaulting 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.

"It's a relief," the woman's lawyer, Carine Durrieu-Diebolt, told AFP after the announcement of a trial.

"There are certainly other victims," she said, adding that up to 25 women have spoken out about "acts ranging from contempt to sexist violence, including harassment and sexual assault. It's time for him to be judged."

Another woman who worked on the "Green Shutters" set has also accused the actor of sexual violence.

A third woman has alleged Depardieu groped her "all over" and made "inappropriate" remarks while she was a 24-year-old 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 will not face charges over those claims because the statute of limitations had expired, her lawyer said.

"If we had a sliding statute of limitations for adults like we do for minors, these women could have had legal recourse," said the woman's lawyer, Durrieu-Diebolt.

- Rape charge -

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 woman 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.

- 'Salacious nonsense' -

Actor Anouk Grinberg, a co-star with 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.

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 the "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.

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