An open letter signed by 56 notable figures, including Charlotte Rampling, Carla Bruni, and Carole Bouquet, has ignited controversy in France as it defends Gérard Depardieu, who faces accusations of rape and sexual assault. The letter, titled “Don’t Erase Gérard Depardieu,” published in Le Figaro, claims that the renowned actor is the victim of a “lynching” and a “torrent of hatred.”
Depardieu, who recently turned 75, received support from the signatories amid a growing backlash following the release of the documentary, “Depardieu: the Fall of an Ogre.” The documentary depicted the actor making inappropriate comments and engaging in harassing behavior during a trip to North Korea in 2018.
Critics argue that the letter places Depardieu above the law and attempts to silence the voices of the #MeToo movement. The signatories, however, contend that the accusations against Depardieu undermine his artistic contributions, labeling him as “probably the greatest of all actors.”
The controversy has reignited discussions about the cultural exception in French cinema, where artistic talent is sometimes considered to transcend legal consequences for an individual’s actions. Critics argue that this stance diminishes the importance of addressing allegations of violence and condemns the #MeToo voices.
Gérard Depardieu faces charges of rape filed in December 2020 by actor Charlotte Arnould. Subsequently, more than a dozen women have accused him of sexual harassment and assault. Investigations into these allegations are ongoing.
In response to the letter, Emmanuelle Dancourt of the #MeTooMedia group expressed sadness and appall, acknowledging the complexity of defending individuals known personally to friends and family.
French President Emmanuel Macron previously defended Depardieu, describing him as the target of a “manhunt.” The actor’s family has denounced what they perceive as an “unprecedented conspiracy” against him.
The French culture minister, Rima Abdul Malak, has announced a disciplinary procedure to revoke Depardieu’s state award, the Legion of Honour, following his derogatory comments about women in the documentary.
The controversy surrounding the letter echoes previous instances within the French cinema industry, such as Catherine Deneuve’s criticism of the #MeToo movement in 2018 and the Roman Polanski controversy at the 2020 Césars.
As the debate continues, it raises questions about the intersection of art, celebrity, and accountability, with differing perspectives on whether artistic achievements should shield individuals from the consequences of their actions.