“I was lucky to be born into a poor, illiterate and almost medieval family”declared the actor to the journalists of the World came to interview him in 2015, in his mansion in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. A refined Empire-style setting overflowing with works of art and books… What a revenge!
When he landed in the capital in 1963, the teenager dragged his gaiters through the Latin Quarter where he joined his friends every evening at the Polytech bar. This rough-hewn young man followed his childhood band which arrived from Indre. And some dream of becoming actors… One day, he accompanies one of them to the Edouard VII theater for an audition. When Gérard goes on stage, everyone laughs! Almost mute, he sweats, gesticulates and mumbles his text… “Illiterate and stuttering”, as he will define himself in his biography, It happened like that, in 2014. If the audience is bent over laughing, only one person seems to consider him: Jean-Laurent Cochet, the professor. Sensing the potential of this rough diamond looking like “man of the woods”, as the theater master will later talk about, he takes Gérard under his wing and enrolls him in oral re-education sessions. The miracle happens: in six months, the young man frees his words, discovers the beauty of great authors, begins to work on the texts and his voice like crazy. He has come a long way… Far from Châteauroux more precisely, where he was born on December 27, 1948 in the heart of a family of five brothers and sisters. Lilette, her mother, does not work, trying to raise her kids against a background of misery. Dédé, the father, is a bodywork worker who drinks a lot… Silent about important things and above all loudmouthed for nothing. “I first learned to shout before I knew how to speak”wrote Gérard in stolen letters in 1988, a book partly dedicated to his mother.
“I was illiterate and stuttering…”
He reveals that she wanted to abort him: “I was promised needles”, he sketches. At the Depardieu’s, we don’t talk to each other, but we write bad words to each other… When he grew up there in the 50s and 60s, Châteauroux was not a provincial town like the others. Because with the American military base and its 20,000 GIs, the city multiplies the temptations for a young idler who left school at 13 years old. Already cut like a mirror cabinet, it is found in all the bars, all the fights, all the traffic… It notably makes good margins by reselling cigarettes, alcohol or clothes made in the USA. A little thug, he hangs out with his gang, which everyone is wary of. Among them, Jacky Merveille, his great friend, his almost brother.
However, in April 1968, this faithful ally died at the age of 21 after going off the road. Depardieu is devastated. It could have been his fate… “I am a survivor of my childhood”, he confided to the Sunday newspaper, in 2017. From now on, the young actor has only one idea in mind: to shoot! After films with the actors Jean Gabin or Alain Delon, he obtains the role which will change everything, that of Jean-Claude in The Valseuses. Despite the opinion of the producers, who warn the director Bertrand Blier: “With his mouth, he will scare women”. However, the character, rogue and free from all morality, is tailor-made for the actor.
In 1974, the release of the film caused a scandal and became a social phenomenon. Gerard Depardieu was born. An imposing look, a singular tone, an assumed virility but also a hypersensitivity of tone and playing that will inspire Téchiné, Sautet, Duras, Truffaut, Pialat, Wajda… or even Jean-Paul Rappeneau. By offering him the character of Cyrano de Bergerac on a set in 1990, he brought him into another dimension, that of international notoriety. The following year, his interpretation earned him an Oscar nomination in the best actor category. But a week before the ceremony, new scandal. While he is given the winner, an old interview where he talks about his youth resurfaces… Translated into English in the Timethe words are shocking: “The girls wanted to be raped (…) We shouldn’t make a big deal out of it (…) The young women themselves put themselves in this situation, they provoke it”.
Depardieu may protest, deny having unleashed these horrors, the damage is done. The trophy will not be for him. Since 2020, accused of rape and sexual harassment by actress Charlotte Arnould, he has been under judicial investigation and an indictment under investigation. The American experience of “Depardiou” could have stopped dead, but he will nevertheless shoot three films including 1492, Christopher Columbus. These 1990s will be the roller coaster of the life of the one who throws himself, bulimic, into countless projects, investments and excess of good food.
In 1998, when he joined the set ofAsterix and Obelix versus Caesar, he misses a turn and finds himself seriously injured. He is believed to be dead. His blood alcohol level would explain the accident, like many other skids on a scooter. He pulls on the rope… ever harder. The year 2000 earned him a quintuple coronary bypass. The great drama is yet to come. On October 13, 2008, his son Guillaume died in Garches hospital, where he was being treated for a pulmonary embolism. In 1995, following a motorcycle accident, he contracted a nosocomial illness which led him, crippled with pain, to have his right leg amputated at the age of 32. Gérard has always had complicated ties with his eldest, who has had drug addiction problems and a period in prison. Relations are hardly easier with his daughter Julie, who once called him a “burden”. But at Guillaume’s funeral, his father is mad with grief. “Now he is free. Guillaume is present in everything I do”, he says in Gala.
Between excess and scandals…
Since then, this share of freedom seems to guide him. Toscan du Plantier described him as “a wave on his own”, moved by an incredible vital energy… Yes, he remains an elusive man, an extraordinary actor, a moving monument.
Life in XXL…
Too beautiful for him?
It was on April 11, 1970 that Gérard married actress Élisabeth Guignot, daughter of a polytechnician, who opened the doors of the bourgeoisie to him. Together, they will have two children, Guillaume, in 1971, and Julie, in 1973. Separated in 1992, they will live an American divorce: fourteen years of procedure and several million euros for Madame! In the meantime, he had Roxane, in 1992, with Karine Silla, the wife of Vincent Perez today, then he lived a great passion with Carole Bouquet, before meeting Hélène Bizot, daughter of an anthropologist, with whom he will have a child, Jean, in 2006. Since 2005, he has been known to have a relationship with the discreet Clémentine Igou, marketing manager for a wine estate in Tuscany. Without forgetting his romantic friendships, with Marguerite Duras who made him turn or even Barbara whose, moved, he reads and sings the texts on stage.
Obélix and Vatel, it’s him!
Impossible to be more Rabelaisian! To combine the pleasures of the table and business, Depardieu has long relied on sure values. Wine first, with its vineyards at Château de Tigné in Anjou acquired in the 1980s, and its company La Clé du Terroir, which promotes new wine estates. With Carole Bouquet, he bought vineyards in Saint-Émilion, but also in Italy. On the stove side, the couple had made their own the shellfish restaurant L’Écaille de la Fontaine and the very chic La Fontaine Gaillon, in Paris. Subsequently, after a few other globe-trotting placements, the actor took over his own rue du Cherche-Midi by buying himself a hotel, a brasserie, a cellar-restaurant and a fishmonger’s called Moby Dick. And it’s very simple: as soon as he gets bored, he sells!
Dance with the Czars
The actor who dominates the world of cinema is fascinated by those who run the planet, at the risk of making human rights defenders howl. No matter, he wants to be a man of meetings… Fidel Castro first, in 1992. He will invest in a Cuban oil company and leave marbles there. Then, in 2012, everything took off. Having bought a house in Belgium, the actor is accused of tax exile. Jean-Marc Ayrault, then Prime Minister, even judges his decision “pretty shabby”. Perhaps out of bravado, Depardieu will then accumulate appointments in the East where he is received as a hero: Chechnya and its sulphurous president Ramzan Kadyrov who offers him an apartment, Uzbekistan where the actor records a duet with the daughter of President Karimov, Russia of course because Putin granted him nationality, Mordovia and its President Volkov who offered him the post of Minister of Culture and a place of residence… In 2018, he went to meet Kim Jong -one in North Korea. Today, openly opposed to the war that Russia is waging against Ukraine, Depardieu would have views on the Middle East…
Crises of times
His conversion to the Orthodox faith at Saint-Alexandre-Nevsky Cathedral in Paris.
“God, it’s what we make of it, it’s you, it’s us”confessed the actor to the Parisian in 2016. And he does it mostly on his own. In 1967, falling under the spell of the voice of the Egyptian Oum Kalthoum, Depardieu converted to Islam, which he practiced for two years. Then, tired, he became interested in Buddhism and Hinduism… To return to a very broad Christianity. In 2003, he read in public Confessions, from Saint Augustin, to Notre-Dame de Paris and then to the Protestant temple of the Oratory of the Louvre. He finally converted in 2020 to the Orthodox faith. Judaism? He would think about it!
1974: THE VALSEUSES
The Depardieu-Dewaere duo, riders on the run, caused a sensation. Bertrand Blier adapts his own successful novel on film.
1980: THE LAST SUBWAY
10 César, including that of the best actor for Gérard, crown this film against a backdrop of occupied Paris. A Truffaut masterpiece.
1981: THE GOAT
Now cult, this comedy by Francis Veber reveals the comic potential of the actor alongside a whiny Pierre Richard.
1982: THE RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE
Is Depardieu the real Martin? Based on a true story, this dark room success will be the subject of an American adaptation with Jodie Foster.
1987: UNDER THE SUN OF SATAN
By directing this Palme d’or boo at Cannes, Pialat offers the actor a complex and sensitive role, based on the work of Georges Bernanos.
1988: CAMILLE CLAUDEL “Rodin!”
The cry of Isabelle Adjani resounds in the memories… From the sculptor, Depardieu has the stature and has kept, since then, an immoderate taste for this art.
1990: CYRANO DE BERGERAC
31 international awards for this feature film in costumes shot in the language of Rostand. “Depardiou” is celebrated all over the world!
1992: 1492, CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS
Signed Ridley Scott, who supports the actor in the turmoil, the film comes out five hundred years after Columbus’ first step on Guanahani Island.
1999: ASTERIX AND OBELIX AGAINST CAESAR
Himself embodying the Gallic spirit, the actor is perfect in Obélix! He will shoot three other shutters, boxes of the box office.
AUGUST 24, 2022: GREEN SHUTTERS
Adapted from Simenon’s novel by the late Jean-Loup Dabadie, the film presents a successful actor who, knowing he is condemned, looks back on his life… The opportunity to find Fanny Ardant.
See also: “It’s become a monster”: Gérard Depardieu shattered by Laurent Ournac, the star of “Camping Paradis”!
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Gérard Depardieu: Sacred monster!