A cultural war has erupted in France over the iconic figure of Gérard Depardieu. The 75-year-old actor is considered one of the greats of the French cinema but he stands accused of multiple allegations of sexual violence and harassment. An investigation is currently ongoing into claims he raped a young actress several years ago. The woman in question appeared in a documentary broadcast recently called The Fall of an Ogre, alongside another actress who alleges she was also a victim of Depardieu. The film broadcast footage of Depardieu making suggestive remarks to women in 2018.
Depardieu denies all the allegations, stating in October last year that he has never ‘abused a woman’. The case has now become a political issue. The minister of culture, Rima Abdul-Malak, mooted the possibility of withdrawing Depardieu’s Legion of d’Honneur, an idea that was quickly shot down by Emmanuel Macron. Describing the criticism of Depardieu as a ‘manhunt’, the president said: ‘He’s an immense actor, a genius of his art. He makes France proud.’
Eric Zemmour, the leader of the right-wing Reconquest party, remarked that for once he was in full agreement with Macron. He declared that Depardieu was the victim of a ‘puritanical’ age that is determined to cancel him because he is a symbolic of a decadent past.
Last week, fifty cultural luminaries signed a letter in support of the actor in the right-leaning Le Figaro entitled ‘Don’t cancel Gerard Depardieu’. They accused his critics of a ‘lynching’ and said: ‘When you attack Gerard Depardieu like this, it is art you are attacking.’
In response, 150 other luminaries signed a letter in the left-leaning Liberation, accusing their 50 peers of ‘insinuating that his talent should shield him from all criticism, and even excuse him for his intolerable behaviour’.