Citizen of the world

30 Sep 2018


Depardieu with President Putin
Depardieu with President Putin

Gérard Depardieu never possessed the exceptional qualities of his two contemporary rivals known the world over. He has neither the divine handsomeness of an Alain Delon nor the indefatigable athletic dash of a Jean-Pierre Belmondo.

He is aware of this and has made a career his own peculiar way, playing the long-nosed sword-fighting knight in Cyrano de Bergerac, a comical cartoon character in Asterix & Obelix or even few minutes short roles such as with Indian actors in Life of Pi.

He is neither concerned with his image as a movie star nor motivated by the challenging role a script can offer him, says a critic. “He just lives his own life, inventing characters on a day-to-day basis.”

Depardieu is conscious of the changing world and the domination of the pensée unique over individualism which used to be a legendary French tradition. He hates inventions like ‘international community’ or ‘populism’ that are created to end all discussions in a single shot.

That explains his close friendship with a number of world leaders who are generally not considered as part of the international community.

In his book The Innocent which is more of a commentary on the France of today than an autobiography, Depardieu says: “Intellectual discussions are a thing of the past in my country. I see that more clearly when I am abroad. Reasoning and logic don’t exist anymore.”

Depardieu is a passionate reader of Russian literature and a fan of writers like Fyodor Dostoïevski and Henri Troyat. He personally knows Vladimir Putin who has granted him Russian nationality. Late Cuban leader Fidel Castro made a similar gesture while he was alive. Following Castro’s advice, Depardieu invested in a number of Cuban business deals. His friends say his motivation was not money making but to demonstrate his affiliation with a small country that has defied a number of times in the past the world’s greatest power.

Gérard Depardieu with Fidel Castro
Gérard Depardieu with Fidel Castro

That logic also explains his friendship with the North Korean president Kim Jong-un in whose company Depardieu was seen many times in Pyongyang, especially during a recent encounter there by the leaders of the two Koreas. If Kim Jong-un has also offered him a passport, as the media claims, that would be no surprise to anyone.

In a recent interview to the weekly Journal du Dimanche the actor claimed that whenever he travels abroad he carries in his pocket at least seven passports. “That helps me avoid standing in the line waiting for a visa!”, he adds laughingly.

Referring to the Algerian President, Gerard Depardieu further disclosed that he has recently received an invitation from Abdulaziz Bouteflika. “Once I am there, I am likely to acquire Algerian nationality in addition, for all you know!”

This may sound as a joke but daily Le Monde confirmed that at least ten other heads of the States have sent similar invitations to Depardieu. It is not uniquely an invitation that has motivated the French movie star to claim a country’s nationality. As far as Belgium is concerned, everyone is aware it is pure business. He owns a luxury hotel as well as a wine-bar in Brussels and, as a Belgian citizen, it helps him save a lot in taxes. In another context, following the astounding popularity in the eastern European countries of a 2011 film Rasputin in which Depardieu plays the title character, he was not only offered the citizenship of Montenegro but was also appointed ‘Cultural Ambassador’ of that country.

Another leader widely hated by the international community is the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This time it is Gerard Depardieu himself who has taken the initiative to request a quick encounter. Asked if he also wishes to possess a Turkish passport, he answers: “You never know. After all, I am a citizen of the world!”

The writer is a journalist based in Paris.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2018