French actors come to Depardieu’s defence amid new rape and sexual assault allegations

Fifty figures from the French entertainment world signed an open letter published Monday defending actor Gérard Depardieu as he faces more than a dozen rape and sexual assault allegations spanning two decades. Most of the accusations have come from those he worked with, with one actress saying his reputation in the film industry is well known and well-deserved. “Anyone who has ever worked with him knows he assaults women,” she said.

Calling Depardieu the “last sacred monster of cinema”, the letter says its signatories “can no longer remain silent in the face of a lynching” and calls on judicial authorities to grant Depardieu the “presumption of innocence that he would enjoy, like everyone else, if he were not the giant of cinema that he is”.

French singer and former first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and English actress Charlotte Rampling were among the signatories to the open letter, which was published in Le Figaro on Christmas Day, along with French Bond girl Carole Bouquet, who was in a relationship with Depardieu for almost a decade starting in 1996.     

The letter comes almost a week after French President Emmanuel Macron sparked outrage by saying he thought Depardieu, 75, was the victim of a “manhunt” amid new assault allegations that emerged this month. 

Years of allegations

Depardieu’s legal troubles began in earnest in February 2021, when he was charged with rape and sexual assault allegedly committed in 2018 against actress Charlotte Arnould at his home in Paris. According to a source close to the case, Depardieu was a friend of the actress’s family.

She filed a complaint in the summer of 2018 when she was 22, saying she had been raped twice by Depardieu at his Paris mansion a few days earlier. Depardieu, who was placed under formal investigation in December 2020, denies the accusations.  

More than a dozen more women came forward in April 2023 with allegations of sexual assault spanning two decades. The French investigative website Mediapart found that 13 additional women had come forward to accuse Depardieu of molesting them on the set of 11 films or series, or in other locations off set, between 2004 and 2022. 

The accusations ranged from “a hand in underwear, on the crotch, on the buttocks or on the breasts” to “obscene sexual remarks” and “insistent grunts”, Mediapart reported.

Even when the alleged abuse happened on set and in front of witnesses, film crews often laughed it off when the women complained, saying it was just the actor’s way, the site’s investigation found.

None of the 13 women have filed official complaints, Mediapart said, but three have given testimony to judicial authorities.

Depardieu has denied the allegations.   

The actor came under renewed fire early this month after a documentary aired on France 2 television showing him making lewd comments about a small girl on horseback and openly discussing his penis on a 2018 trip to North Korea.

Indignation and disgust over video of Gérard Depardieu spouting lewd comments


That same week, French actress Hélène Darras accused Depardieu of assaulting her while filming a movie in 2007. She told France 2 that Depardieu groped and propositioned her when she was an extra in the film “Disco”:

He “ran his hand over my thighs and my buttocks” before asking, “‘Do you want to come to my dressing room?’,” Darras recounted. Even after rejecting his advances, she said, “He kept groping me between takes.”

In mid-December, a Spanish journalist said Depardieu had raped her nearly 30 years ago in Paris, telling AFP she filed a criminal complaint with Spanish police. She said the rape happened when she interviewed the actor in 1995 for Cinemania magazine.

High-level protectors

Allegations – or perhaps admissions – of Depardieu’s role in raping women have been circulating for more than 40 years.

In a 1978 interview in Film Comment magazine, Depardieu described his difficult childhood and was quoted as saying, “I had plenty of rapes, too many to count.” 

Time magazine asked Depardieu whether he had participated in these rapes in a 1991 feature story and Depardieu said he had. “But it was absolutely normal in those circumstances,” he added.  

The Time coverage sparked outrage in the United States but did not seem to dim Depardieu’s star in his homeland, with several French political figures turning out to voice support for the actor. Then minister of culture Jack Lang called it a “low blow” targeting one of France’s “great actors”. Some said it was part of a conspiracy to undermine Depardieu’s chance at an Oscar – despite his chances at an Oscar being slim to none at the time.    

“In France, where sex is treated more casually and public figures are protected more carefully by the press, the brouhaha was seen as another example of American prudishness,” Time wrote.

Depardieu later denied making the remarks and threatened to sue the magazine, but Time refused to retract its reporting, saying the comments had been tape recorded.   

Actress Anouk Grinberg, who has known Depardieu for decades, spoke out for the first time in October, saying his proclivities were an open secret in the industry.

“Anyone who has ever worked with him knows he assaults women,” Grinberg, 60, told Elle magazine, adding that people refrained from denouncing him for fear it would hurt their careers. 

Culture Minister Rima Abdul-Malak said in mid-December that the actor’s behaviour “shames France”, noting that Depardieu is at risk of being stripped of his Legion of Honour, the country’s top civilian award. 

But asked about the controversy last week, French President Emmanuel Macron became the latest high-level official to come to Depardieu’s defence. Asked in a wide-ranging interview whether the actor should be stripped of his Légion d’Honneur, Macron said he thought Depardieu was the victim of a “manhunt”.   

 “You will never see me take part in a manhunt. I hate that kind of thing,” he said, adding: “The presumption of innocence is part of our values.”   

One French feminist collective said Macron’s comments were “an insult” to all women who had suffered sexual violence but “first and foremost, [to] those who accused Depardieu”. Another called the president’s remarks “not just scandalous, but also dangerous”.

Green party MP Sandrine Rousseau remarked that “Macron has picked his side – that of the aggressors.” 

Escape into acting

Depardieu became a star in France starting in the 1970s and ’80s with roles in “The Last Metro” and “Jean de Florette” followed by “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Green Card”, which made him a Hollywood celebrity after he won the Golden Globe best actor award for the role. He later appeared in other international productions, including Kenneth Branagh’s “Hamlet” and Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi”.

Depardieu grew up in extreme poverty as the third of six children, the son of an illiterate and alcoholic metal worker father. By his own account he mixed with bad company, hanging out with prostitutes before working as a rent boy and committing various crimes. At 16 he landed in jail for stealing a car.

Acting proved his salvation, with money as the main motivating factor. He started on stage in Paris in 1965 and his breakout film came nearly a decade later when he played a ruffian in the erotic comedy “Going Places”.

Despite his successes, Depardieu’s private life ran the gamut from drunk driving offences to one particularly notorious episode involving urinating in the aisle of a plane.

Depardieu has also come under fire in the past for his support of Russia. He left France in 2013 and received Russian citizenship to protest against a tax hike on the rich being proposed at the time. Depardieu has often praised Russia, calling it a “great democracy”, and lauded President Vladimir Putin, whom he has compared to late pope John Paul II. Shortly after the invasion of Ukraine, however, he denounced Putin’s “crazy, unacceptable excesses” in his prosecution of the war.

Depardieu has had four children with three different partners, the longest relationship being with Élisabeth, an actress whom he married in 1970 and divorced in 2006. 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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Paris ‘bouquinistes’ resist plans to remove riverside book kiosks for Olympics

The green, second-hand book kiosks that line the River Seine are beloved by both tourists and locals, but new plans could see the distinctive sheds dismantled as part of a massive security operation for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, set to take place along the river. But the bouquinistes are fighting to keep their open-air shops open.

On a warm August afternoon, there is plenty of interest in the bookshops along Paris’s riverbanks. Tourists and locals walking the route between the Seine and the Hôtel de Ville city hall browse through the kerbside stalls, propped open to display vintage and second-hand books, posters, old maps and souvenirs for sale.

Hundreds of these green “boxes” are attached to the riverbank walls along a three-kilometre stretch of the river that passes right through the heart of the French capital. They are as familiar and distinctive a Parisian sight as the tops of Notre Dame’s towers rising above the rooftops behind them.

“We’ve been along the quays of the Seine for 450 years, and on the parapets since they were built by Napoleon III,” says one bouquiniste who has been an official delegate representing the booksellers along the central stretch of the right bank for 30 years.

Now the traditional shops are facing an unexpected threat. At the end of July, Paris city hall said that the kiosks would have to be removed when the city hosts the Summer Olympic Games in July and August 2024.

The opening ceremony is set to be a ground-breaking event, taking place – for the first time – not inside a stadium but along the river itself, with massive crowds expected to watch from the quays.

The unique open-air spectacle requires a colossal security operation and the kiosks must be taken down as a safety measure, the Paris prefecture said in July.

Read moreFrance unveils security plan for Olympics opening ceremony in central Paris

“They’re worried that people are going to climb on the boxes. But if the boxes are open, they can’t. And there’ll be railings [installed], which are dangerous too,” says Juliette, who has been selling books along the quays for a year. “All the booksellers here will tell you they don’t agree with the plans.”  

Her sentiments are echoed by Lim, who is running his wife’s shop for the day. He has just sold a second-hand children’s book to an elderly French customer. “I don’t understand why they would remove them. The boxes are a part of Paris,” he says.

“The biggest problem for me is the symbolism,” says Camille, who has sold books on the Seine for 10 years and has owned her own kiosks for five.

“For a ceremony that will last four hours, they want to make us move for months. We are part of the Paris landscape. Removing us is like removing a building.”

The bouquinistes also have practical concerns. The summer months are typically the busiest time of year for the open-air shops, as good weather brings more foot traffic and tourists to the city centre.

“Summer is the time when we make money for the rest of the year. It’s what allows us to survive. If we miss a summer of work, it’s very difficult to bounce back,” Camille says, pausing to sell a collection of vintage Vogue magazine photos to two tourists in their 20s.

Tourist numbers in Paris are expected to rise to more than 10 million in summer 2024, thanks to the Games.

To make sure the booksellers don’t miss out completely, Paris city hall has suggested they could move to a dedicated book market near the Place de la Bastille in order to keep trading over the summer months.

The idea has not been well received. In their current location, the sellers are perfectly positioned to attract foot traffic from the busy Arcole bridge that connects tourist sites on the Île de la Cité to the vibrant Marais district on the right bank. By contrast, “there’s no one at Bastille”, says Juliette.

The idea of going from bouquiniste to market stall seller also doesn’t appeal. There is an evident sense of pride among the shopkeepers that their presence in the city centre contributes to the capital’s cultural heritage in a unique way. “People who come to us come for the boxes, for their character. They represent Paris,” Juliette adds.


Paris city hall has said it will manage the removal, storage and reinstallation of an estimated 570 kiosks “located within the opening ceremony security perimeter” ahead of the games, but questions abound on how the feat will be achieved.

“Where will they put them? How will we get them back? And how long will it last for?” Lim asks. “[City hall] doesn’t have the answers. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

Shoppers look at products on sale at Lim’s kiosk along the quays of the Seine, August 15, 2023. © Joanna York, FRANCE 24

Shopkeepers are also worried about the impact the move will have on the kiosks themselves.

“They’re not made to be moved,” says Camille. “Each box is made differently because they’re all made by different people. It takes a lot of time to take them down and a good understanding of how they’re made.”

“Some boxes are very old. Mine are [30 years old], and every time I’ve moved them, they get a little damaged.”

Then there is the stock to think about. A seller with multiple kiosks can store thousands of books inside, some of which could be rare and fragile collectibles.

Camille has 2,000 books that will need to be stored elsewhere if her kiosks are dismantled. “I don’t have anywhere else to keep them. Unless I fill up my apartment for two months,” she says.

A few kiosks down, the 30-year booksellers’ delegate runs a stall that looks, at a glance, sparser than the others. There are no souvenirs or posters for sale; instead, his is dedicated entirely to rare, vintage books. In fact he is rarely at his own, instead walking from kiosk to kiosk speaking to different customers and shopkeepers, enjoying the atmosphere and opportunities for conversation that the rows of booksellers bring to what would otherwise be a busy riverside sidewalk.

His role as delegate puts him in regular contact with Paris city hall, and he was shocked at how officials broke the news of plans to remove the bouquinistes.

“There was no discussion,” he says. “I thought we were going to a meeting to prepare for the Games. But city hall had already made an administrative decision, validated it with the prefecture, and none of us bouquinistes were consulted during the process.”

He fears local officials do not value what the bouquinistes bring to the riverside, saying there have been previous attempts to convert the boxes into enclosed rental spaces or to move the shopkeepers outside of the city centre. His major concern is that, once removed, the kiosks may never return.

“All we have is a verbal promise, and we can’t just work with that. The sensible thing to do is to stay where we are, and we hope we have support to do that.”

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Bastille Day: A brief history of France’s July 14 national holiday

France celebrates its fête nationale every year with fireworks, concerts and an extravagant military parade down the Champs-Élysées in the presence of the president, a bevy of politicians and often a foreign head of state as an honoured guest. The July 14 date of the fête commemorates two important events in French history. FRANCE 24 takes a look at the holiday’s origins and what to expect on the day.

What is significant about July 14? 

Bastille Day” is known in France simply as “le Quatorze Juillet”, a reference to the date on which it is held. July 14 became an official national holiday in 1880 to commemorate key turning points in French history. 

The French Revolution officially began on May 5, 1789, when King Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates General to raise more money after he had collected what he could in taxes. But the meeting quickly devolved into a debate over sharing political influence and the poor living conditions endured by the people of France, while the king lived an opulent lifestyle at the Versailles chateau outside Paris. 

On July 14 of that year, a Paris mob – hungry from a poor harvest and angry at the king and government for their suffering – stormed the Bastille prison, which had become a symbol of the absolute power wielded by the monarch after he confined many of his opponents there. The mob freed a handful of prisoners and seized large stores of weapons in what was a first victory for the people over the “old regime” (l’Ancien Régime), the French monarchy dating from around the 16th century. 

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen that same summer called for the establishment of certain “natural and inalienable” rights, including freedom, resistance to oppression and equality before the law. After ratifying the text in October and coming under increasing pressure from the people, King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette left Versailles for Paris.  

These were decisive moments in the French Revolution (1789-1799), which recreated France as a people’s republic founded on the principles of individual liberty and responsible citizenship codified by the famous Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité”, which remains France’s motto to this day.  

The Feast of the Federation (la Fête de la Fédération) the following year – on July 14, 1790 – saw 300,000 people gather in an amphitheatre constructed especially for the event outside Paris to celebrate the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and the achievements of the French Revolution, marking the first time France’s national holiday was celebrated.  

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette died by the guillotine in 1793, bringing a decisive end to the monarchy in France. 

What happens in France on July 14?  

France’s fête nationale today is celebrated with a range of events throughout the day. Most of the major televised celebrations take place in Paris but towns and cities across France also organise a variety of local celebrations.   

10am local time: The Military Parade  

A key part of the celebrations is France’s military parade (défilé militaire), which became part of official celebrations by decree when July 14 was introduced as a national holiday in 1880.  

The event sees thousands of military personnel and police, hundreds of horses and almost 500 vehicles promenade down Paris’s Champs-Élysées avenue from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde. Dozens of aircraft also perform a military flyover of the capital while trailing the blue, white and red (in that order) colours of the French flag.    


AFP | Sunday marks the centenary of France’s traditional Bastille Day military parade.


The current president of the French Republic attends the parade along with high-ranking politicians and often a foreign head of state as a guest of honour. Members of the public can tune in live on TV or attend in person by occupying one of the many spectator stands lining the avenue.  

As well as showing off France’s military prowessthe event is an occasion to honour certain people and causes, and to bolster diplomatic ties. Troops from other nations are often invited to join the parade as a gesture of friendship and alliance, or to mark historic occasions.     

To commemorate 100 years since the US joined allies fighting in World War IUS troops participated in the parade in 2017. French President Emmanuel Macron invited former US president Donald Trump as a guest of honour that same year. Trump was reportedly so impressed by the parade that he ordered the Pentagon to produce a similar event in America 

The parade was dramatically scaled down in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic. The following year, French healthcare workers were invited to participate to honour their hard work throughout the crisis.  

Troops from nine Eastern European countries opened the parade in 2022 as a sign of solidarity with Ukraine, where Russia had launched a full-scale invasion the previous February.  

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the 2023 parade as Macron’s guest of honour. A contingent from the Indian armed forces will also join parading troops.    

Pupils from the Ecole Polytechnique (Special military school of Polytechnique) take part in the Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on July 14, 2019.
Pupils from the Ecole Polytechnique (Special military school of Polytechnique) take part in the Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, on July 14, 2019. © Lionel Bonaventure, AFP


Televised speech from the president de la République 

President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing introduced the custom of the French head of state giving a July 14 televised address in the 1970s. The event became a political tradition, similar to the annual televised presidential speech given from the Élysée Palace on December 31.  

The tradition died out somewhat under president Nicolas Sarkozy, who did not give the traditional Bastille Day address throughout his five-year tenure.  

Since becoming president in 2017, Macron has given two televised interviews on the July 14 holiday, in 2020 and 2022. There are no plans for an interview in 2023.  

9pm: Concert on the Champs de Mars  

A relatively recent tradition is the classical music Concert de Paris, which takes place at the park under the Eiffel Tower, known as the Champs de Mars 

The two-hour concert will be held for the 11th consecutive year in 2023, performed, as usual, by the French National Orchestra, with the choir and the choir school of Radio France.  

This year will also feature special performances by opera singers Ermonela Jaho, Stéphanie d’Oustrac, Jonas Kaufmann and Ludovic Tézier, and violinist Vilde Frang. 

The concert is televised and spectators can also watch for free in-person from the Champs-de-Mars park in front of the tower.   

Traditionally, the concert ends with a rousing version of French national anthem La Marseilleise – originally a call to arms for soldiers fighting in the French Revolution – right before the famous Eiffel Tower firework display begins.  

Fireworks explode above the Eiffel Tower in Paris on July 14, 2020
Fireworks explode above the Eiffel Tower in Paris on July 14, 2020 © Zakaria Abdelkafi, AFP

11pm: Fireworks 

Perhaps the most famous image of France’s July 14 celebrations is that of fireworks lighting up the night sky around the Eiffel Tower. 

The 30-minute display begins, directly after the Concert de Paris, with fireworks set to contemporary music. In recent years illuminated drones have also been included.  The theme of the display for 2023 is “Freedom”. 

The event is televised and spectators can watch for free from the Champs-de-Mars, if there is any space available  crowds are notoriously vast. For those lucky enough to live in a tall building or near a hill, the spectacular display is also visible from various points around the capital. 


The Firemen’s Ball  

The Bal des pompiers is not an official part of July 14 celebrations, but is an institution nonetheless.   

On the evenings of July 13 and 14, fire stations around France throw open their doors and hold public parties, often with music and a bar either in the fire station or the station courtyard.  

The tradition is said to have begun in the Paris district of Montmartre in 1937, when firefighters returning from taking part in the military parade were followed by jubilant citizens. Amid the celebratory atmosphere, the firefighters opened the fire station doors and allowed the city’s residents inside.  

Banned during World War II, the parties were reintroduced after France’s liberation and have remained a fixture of the fête nationale ever since. 

This video from 2022 declares the ‘Bal des pompiers is back’

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Francophone countries meet for summit in Tunisia amid democracy concerns

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The world’s club of French-speaking countries will meet in Tunisia from Saturday for talks focused on economic cooperation, more than a year after President Kais Saied began an internationally criticised power grab.

Around 30 heads of state and government, including French President Emmanuel Macron, his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, are set to attend the summit of the International Organisation of Francophonie (OIF) on the southern Tunisian resort island of Djerba.

While the two-day summit and an associated economic forum will officially focus on digital technology’s role in development, it will also be an opportunity for Western and African leaders to discuss issues like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Many African countries have decried what they see as a lack of international solidarity in the face of crises on their continent, in sharp contrast with European nations’ swift support of Kyiv.

The summit coincides with the final stage of UN climate talks in Egypt, and comes just days after G20 leaders met in Indonesia for a meeting dominated by the war in Ukraine, which is an OIF observer state.

Normally held every two years, the meeting was postponed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and then last year after Saied sacked the government and suspended parliament, later dissolving the legislature entirely.

Hosting the summit is a “success” for Saied, said French political researcher Vincent Geisser.

It will see him “leave his isolation — at least temporarily”, Geisser told AFP, after Canada, France and other developed nations last year called on Saied to restore “constitutional order”.

Economic cooperation

The summit will belatedly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the now 88-strong group whose members, such as Armenia and Serbia, are not all French-speaking.

The world’s French-speaking community is around 321 million-strong, and is expected to more than double to 750 million in 2050.

Secretary general Louise Mushikiwabo, of Rwanda, who is up for re-election, said the bloc is “more pertinent than ever” and able to bring added value to “most of the world’s problems”.

She told AFP she would ask member states to “redouble their efforts” in the face of a decline in the use of the French language in international organisations, and recalled that promoting “peace, democracy and human rights” is also part of the OIF’s mission.

Senegalese civil society figure Alioune Tine instead criticised the OIF’s record on international crisis mediation.

The group has shown itself to be “totally powerless in the face of fraudulent elections, third mandates (of African leaders) and military coups” in Mali, Guinea, Chad and Burkina Faso, he said.

Summit coordinator Mohamed Trabelsi told AFP the meeting was “a recognition of the role of Tunisia in the Francophone space, and of its regional and international diplomacy”.

It is also an opportunity to “strengthen economic cooperation”, Trabelsi said.

But an official from OIF heavyweight Canada said Ottawa wanted to echo “concern” over “democratic participation” following Saied’s power grab in the only democracy to have emerged from the Arab Spring uprisings more than a decade ago.

Tunisia is confronted by a deep economic crisis which has pushed a growing number of its people to try to reach Europe.

Seeking to draw delegates’ attention to the issue, hundreds of protesters tried Friday to highlight the disappearance of 18 Tunisians onboard a boat that set out in September. Police prevented them from reaching Djerba.


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