French star Deneuve defends Depardieu in tax exile row

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2012, 9:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2012, 9:16pm

Veteran French actress Catherine Deneuve launched a strong defence of Gerard Depardieu on Friday, calling a virulent critic of her fellow thespian’s bid for tax exile a petty-minded pygmy.

Deneuve’s defence came after the reclusive French film legend Brigitte Bardot castigated attacks on a man who is arguably France’s leading actor with roles in nearly 170 films.

The hulking 64-year-old star’s move to Belgium has been derided as “pathetic” by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault while another top French actor, Philippe Torreton, publicly accused him of sulking like a playground creep.

Deneuve, a chiselled blonde actress whose career spans nearly a half-century, questioned Torrenton’s credentials to attack a giant of French cinema in an open letter in the left-wing Liberation daily .

She told Torrenton her “anger was borne of your hasty judgments made without thinking and this pettiness,” adding: “You take aim at his physique! At his talent!

“‘This mess’ that you speak of. What right, what democratic motive do you claim as your dirty condemnation?”

Torrenton had in a vitriolic attack on Tuesday accused Depardieu of being an outspoken, money-obsessed lout with “dictator friends.”

The latter was a reference to Uzbekistan’s strongman leader Islam Karimov whose pop star daughter recently recorded a duet with Depardieu.

Bardot – who keeps out of the public eye and only speaks on animal issues – had also denounced Depardieu, who she said had been “the victim of extremely unfair persecution”.

She told Torreton to “keep his venom, his vulgarity, his mediocrity and his jealousy to insult someone worthy of the bother”.

Depardieu on Sunday threatened to give up his French passport and take up Belgian citizenship to protest at the Socialist government’s new tax hike on the rich.

He made the threat after Ayrault called him “pathetic” for making Belgium his formal place of residence, a move meant to help the actor avoid the French tax.

Depardieu has joined some of France’s wealthiest business figures in Belgium following moves by President Francois Hollande’s government to tax annual incomes above one million euros (US$1.3 million) at 75 per cent.

Unlike France, Belgium does not impose a wealth tax and has not had one since 1830. Its income and inheritance taxes are also lower.

In his letter, Depardieu, who has extensive business interests including wine estates and three Paris restaurants, accused the Socialists of driving France’s most talented figures out of the country.

He said that over 45 years of working and running businesses in France he had paid 145 million euros into state coffers. He claimed to have paid 85 per cent tax on his earnings this year.