“I’m a big admirer of Gerard Depardieu,” said Emmanuel Macron candidly on the set of C’est à vous, the primetime TV magazine, when asked to comment on the downfall of Depardieu, the revered French actor who’s facing new sexual assault accusations and has crystallized a new tide of #MeToo in France.
“He’s an immense actor, who has delivered some of the most beautiful texts. He made France known, our greatest authors, our greatest characters, across the world,” said Macron. “I’ll say it as France president but also as a citizen, he makes France proud.”
Depardieu was indicted on Dec. 16, 2020 regarding allegations of rape and sexual assault tied to a 2018 lawsuit filed by actor Charlotte Arnould, but it took a bombshell investigative documentary, Complement d’Enquête, to provoke real outrage in France. In the documentary, which aired on Dec. 7, Depardieu is seen making crude, sexual and misogynistic jokes on footage, including one referring to a child riding a poney.
The doc also sheds light on Depardieu’s alleged sexual assault victims as they share their testimonies on camera. One of them, Emmanuelle Debever, was reported dead on the day of the airing in an apparent suicide after jumping from a bridge into the Seine river in Paris.
She had accused Depardieu of assaulting her at the age of 19 during the filming of Andrzej Wajda’s 1982 period drama “Danton.” Another French actor who spoke in the documentary, Hélène Darras, has filed a police complaint alleging that Depardieu sexually assaulted her during the filming of “Disco” in 2007. Darras also was part of the 13 women who shared their testimonies in an investigative report published by Mediapart in April. Depardieu’s legal representation, which was taken over from Cabinet Temime and is now handled by Christian Jean-Palais, told Variety they had “no comment” to give about this new complaint which is currently being investigated internally by the Paris prosecutors’ office.
The backlash has been such as Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak said on the set of C’est a Vous earlier this week that Depardieu’s Legion of Honor could potentially be revoked amid new accusations of sexual assault. Macron, who had scrapped Harvey Weinstein’s Legion of Honor following the rape accusations in 2017, reacted to Malak’s comments with a rhetorical question. “Am I going to start taking away the Legion of Honor to artists and personalities when they say things that shock me? The answer is no.”
“It’s not on the basis of a reportage that one withdraws the Legion of Honor, because if it was the case, we would take it away from many artists because we could even do that post mortem,” Macron said, looking visibly upset.
He also said he’ll “never be seen engaging in a manhunt” because he “hates it,” and discussed the “presumption of innocence” as one of France’s core values. Macron’s government has also allowed Dominique Boutonnat, the president of the National Film Board, to remain in post for a second mandate after he was indicted for sexual assault on his godson.