Good screen roles have been scarce on the ground lately for Gerard Depardieu, but the enfant terrible of French cinema was again in front of the cameras at the weekend.
It is true that it was something like a supporting role, just one face in the crowd. But given that the crowd in question was a VIP gang invited to the celebrations in Pyongyang to commemorate the 70th anniversary of North Korea, the 69-year-old actor has once again managed to stand out as the most amazing star in the world of the film.
His huge bundle wrapped in a billowing white shirt, and his potato head topped with a wide-brimmed straw hat, no doubt stood out among the hordes of North Koreans, obediently honoring a military parade for one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
The brutalized citizens have to come to applaud the soldiers who rise of goose and crushed military equipment because they will end up dying of hunger in a forced labor camp if they do not do it. The star of Cyrano de Bergerac, Jean de Florette and Green Card did not have that excuse, which could explain why he seemed a little dazed by the journalists.
French actor Gerard Depardieu attends a military parade and mass demonstration at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Sunday
It was still unclear if Depardieu was there to participate in the festivities, including a large military parade, rallies and "massive games," or he was simply a guest. But he was not going to elaborate when the journalists tried to question him in a tourist hotel.
Visibly upset, Depardieu refused to talk to them and was filmed saying: & # 39; I do not want journalists & # 39;
According to one witness, he even refused to pose for the photos, and one of his companions warned a journalist that he would have a "bad time" if he persisted in trying to talk to the actor. That is a way of dealing with untimely questions that will make the 69-year-old star who drinks so much to attract his new circle of friends, a seemingly widening group of the world's most notorious despots.
The extent of his relationship with Kim Jong-un has yet to be revealed, but the deeply paranoid ruler usually does not allow celebrities to enter the country, much less grant them VIP status, unless he knows they will say the right things.
And Depardieu, who is supposed to be filming a film about the conflict in Afghanistan, before moving on to play the composer Bach, has a long and ignoble track record of saying "the right thing" about despots.
It's a controversial world view to say the least, and the actor's reputation took a more recent hit when it emerged that prosecutors in Paris are investigating alleged "rapes and sexual assaults". of a young actress in her city mansion last month. His accuser, an unidentified actress and dancer of 22 years, says he sexually assaulted her twice.
Maybe his trip to North Korea was an attempt to put the investigation behind him. But then, no leader seems to be out of reach of Depardieu.
He has long expressed his enthusiasm for the monstrous Vladimir Putin, and the Russian leader reciprocated by granting the Frenchman a Russian passport in 2013, reportedly when the sparse actor wanted to avoid the huge tax increases in France, a charge he denies.
Putin gave him citizenship (and Russian fiscal status) during dinner and a fisherman. The star boasts that Putin is a "friend" who sees "regularly". He said that the president "gives me lessons in geopolitics", and it shows. Depardieu loves to rage against the pernicious influence of the United States. UU., And even recently he suggested that the Pentagon created the AIDS virus.
He applauds Putin's policies, including the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia, and claims to have visited the Russian prisons and been impressed by his "wonderful" food.
In his memoirs, the actor, who reportedly has a mansion east of Moscow, insisted that the hard Russian man and the former head of the KGB & # 39; he liked my side of the thug & # 39; & # 39;
The star, whom Pope John Paul II once imprudently compared to St. Augustine, is also a friend of Ramzan Kadyrov, now the president of Chechnya. Kadyrov, a ruthless former rebel warlord with a passion for guns and fast cars, struck up a friendship with Depardieu in 2011 when the actor attended his birthday celebrations.
Russian President Vladimir Putin greets French actor Gerard Depardieu during his meeting at Putin's residence in Sochi in January 2013
An ally of Moscow, Kadyrov controls the forces that have been accused of kidnapping and torturing the Islamic insurgents and their families. He denies the charges. Human rights activists were dismayed when Depardieu and his co-star Liz Hurley arrived in Chechnya in the midst of a big fanfare to shoot a thriller in 2013. At a press conference, Depardieu ridiculed Western claims that the country was violent.
Depardieu also revealed that he even became friends with the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, investing kindly in an oil field on the island and establishing links with the communist leader for a mutual love of food.
"I met him in 1992 when I made him pate," he told Graham Norton. "He loves to eat too, and he's very curious about the food, he's a friend and I'm going to hunt with him and [current president and Fidel’s younger brother] Raul
Depardieu insisted that the couple, who presided over a totalitarian state accused of innumerable abuses of human rights, "knows everything about everything and is normal people."
It seems unlikely that an enthusiastic connoisseur of tyrants will lose much sleep by being seen celebrating the rule of murderer Kim Jong-un.
It has become quite clear that Depardieu, often charitably described in France as 'un force de nature', does not care what people think of him, and may even delight in proving the patience of his enthusiastic fans. .
It delights in its enormous size (it weighs more than 20 stones and has had multiple bypass operations) and looks like a seed after a lifetime of drinking, smoking and stuffing.
"I'm happy with very little on this earth … but I like to have a lot in my glass," he said once. He has boasted that he can consume 14 bottles of alcohol a day, once he got so drunk that he drank a bottle of whole hair lotion after mistaking it for Italian liquor.
On another occasion, he got drunk on a solemn commemoration of the First World War and shouted obscenities.
Although he insists that "I'm never completely drunk, just a little bad", one would like to think that he did not realize what he was doing when in 2011 he peed in the cockpit of a flight from Paris to Dublin after being told that I would have to wait to use the toilets on board.
The following year, he was charged with assault after his scooter collided with a car in Paris. The driver of the car said that a heated argument led Depardieu to punch him in the face. In 2013, he was fined after falling off his motorcycle while driving drunk.
In 2014, he brought out a candid autobiography that reveals a man with little moral compass. He confessed to being a child prostitute, a thief of thieves and even a grave robber.
Son of an illiterate, worker of the alcoholic metal and mother who thought about aborting with knitting needles, Depardieu had a childhood so poor that the family ate hedgehogs. He quickly became a delinquent, selling his body to passing truck drivers, even when he was a schoolboy and helping a man dig up newly buried bodies to loot his jewelry and shoes.
Moving to Paris, the self-described "rude peasant" continued to steal and prostitute himself. He was saved from homelessness by an observer of gay theatrical talent who paid for him to study drama. The job-addicted actor and the hardened womanizer combined a prolific and acclaimed acting career with an apparent desire to die off the screen: he has made over 170 films and survived 18 motorcycle accidents.
Gerard Depardieu and Gerard Bourgoin, French leader of food processing, with the then Cuban leader Fidel Castro in November 1996 in Havana, Cuba
French director Bertrand Blier, who propelled Depardieu into domestic stardom at night by playing a violent offender in the 1974 film Les Valseuses, said he was also a bully off the screen. "Twenty years ago, it was extremely dangerous," Mr. Blier once said.
"Literally, we had to follow him at night to keep him from getting into a fight, he would deliberately go to the most dangerous areas, looking for trouble." Even now, when he arrives at the door, I think: "Where are the valuables? "
Depardieu, who admits that he has been an immature father, has had four children by several companions, but a boy, Guillaume (by the marriage of Depardieu with his co-star of Jean de Florette, Elisabeth Guignot) died at the age of 37 years.
Guillaume also became a rental boy and was imprisoned twice for heroin and robbery crimes. The actor says that his children are ashamed to bear his name and, in the case of his daughter actress, Julie, embarrassed to even look like him.
Five years ago, he admitted that he had undergone plastic surgery five times because he could not bear to look like his father "daddy". The French have tended in the past to admire their attitude of "demons that care", which is leavened by an immense charm. But even if you can tolerate being related to several of the most vilified dictators on the planet, you may have crossed the line after being accused of rape.
Sources say that Depardieu is a friend of his accuser's father and that he had "taken her under his wing" and gave him advice on how to begin his career as an actress.
Depardieu's lawyer says that the actor "absolutely denies any attack" and that he is "dismayed … this accusation goes against everything he respects."
His friend from the Kremlin made sure that the Russian state television ran to the defense of the actor, which suggests that he was the victim of an attempt at blackmail. It was the least Putin could do after Depardieu obediently went to the polls in the Russian presidential elections in March, giving the Moscow embassy in Paris a useful photo opportunity when he arrived to drop his ballot in the box.
But even Putin's friendship and, who knows, maybe the hairy Kim Jong-un may not be enough to save the charismatic but deeply flawed star of a shameful sexual trial.