French actor Gerard Depardieu has denied the claim that he sexually assaulted a 22-year-old woman twice.
The Paris prosecutor's office has opened a preliminary investigation into alleged "rape and sexual assault".
Depardie's lawyer, Herve Temime, said he "absolutely denies any attack, any violation."
The investigation follows a complaint filed Monday in southern Provence, according to a judicial source.
The author was "a young actress and dancer in her twenties," said the Parisian newspaper, adding that she alleged that the actor sexually abused her in the context of an essay and at home on August 7 and 13.
Depardieu, 69, is known as a larger than life character with a lifelong inclination to headlines.
The accusations against him are the latest in a chain against prominent men in the wake of accusations of rape and assault against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the Me Too movement that gave rise to it.
"I regret the public nature of this process that poses a great detriment to Gerard Depardieu, whose innocence I am convinced he will be recognized," added his lawyer Temime, asking for restraint on all sides.
A prolific actor who made more than 180 films, Depardieu became the true face of French cinema due to roles in films such as "Cyrano de Bergerac", for which he won the best actor award at the Cannes film festival and was nominated for an Oscar.
He became famous in the 1974 movie "Going Places," after which he enjoyed a meteoric rise, demonstrating talent and charm in powerful roles in classics, dramas and comedies alike.
Other notable performances by Depardieu include roles in "The Last Metro" by Francois Truffaut, the film inspired by Marcel Pagnol "Jean de Florette", "The Valley of Love" and four films "Asterix and Obelix".
fame and fortune
Once described by actress Brigitte Fossey as "an ogre and a poet", Depardieu worked under directors ranging from Bernardo Bertolucci, Andrzej Wajda, Jean-Luc Godard and Ridley Scott.
He has starred with actresses such as Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Adjani, Sophia Loren, Fanny Ardant and Kate Winslet.
His fame and fortune as a world cinema star contrasted sharply with the harsh and ruthless world in which Depardieu grew up.
Born in 1948 to an illiterate metal worker, he was the third of six children raised in extreme poverty.
In her 2014 autobiography "This Is How It Happened," Depardieu said that her mother told her that as a child she had tried to abort it using knitting needles to avoid spending another baby.
On his own account, Depardieu began to run with bad company from the beginning, spending time with prostitutes before he himself worked as a rental driver. He committed a variety of crimes, including, he claimed, robbery of graves, before going to jail at age 16 for stealing a car.
"At 20, the bully in me was alive and well," wrote Depardieu.
Salvation came through the performance, which Depardieu began in 1965, supposedly after working as a beach boy at the Cannes festival, attending the National Populaire Theater in Paris.
In 2013, Depardieu sparked a major protest by leaving France and taking Russian citizenship in protest of a proposal to increase taxes on the rich in his homeland.
Russian President Vladimir Putin invited him to a dinner to introduce him to his new citizenship and Depardieu was later praised in an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.