Depardieu, Newly a Russian, Will Play Frenchman in Chechnya
Gerard Depardieu attended a news conference in Grozny, the formerly war-torn Chechen capital, on Tuesday.
Published: May 21, 2013
MOSCOW — Gérard Depardieu may have renounced his French nationality as a protest against high taxes and became a citizen of Russia instead, but on Tuesday he said he would play a Frenchman in a movie to be filmed in Moscow and in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya.
Grozny is better known as the center of two bloody wars fought against Russia by Muslim separatists than as a glamorous celebrity hangout.
But it seemed to enjoy an odd, fleeting paparazzi moment on Tuesday as Mr. Depardieu and Ms. Hurley appeared with the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, a strongman supported by the Kremlin who has been accused of human rights abuses. Ms. Hurley posted messages about the event on Twitter and posted three pictures via Instagram.
Mr. Depardieu noted Chechnya’s violent reputation, at one point telling a journalist: “You see, it’s O.K. They don’t kill you,” according to Nikolaus von Twickel, a correspondent for the German news agency DPA, who attended the event.
At another point, Mr. Depardieu made it clear that his strident antitax sentiments had not eased, despite his qualification as a Russian tax resident for a flat 13 percent income tax levy. Speaking in English, he used an expletive to describe taxes in Britain, which he said had prompted film directors to leave that country.
He also offered gratitude to Mr. Kadyrov, who has given him an apartment in Grozny, and kind words for Chechnya and the Chechen people.
He said that Chechens should not feel any responsibility for the April 15 bombings of the Boston Marathon, even though the two suspects in the attack, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, were of Chechen heritage. “I agree with Ramazan Kadyrov that the Tsarnaev brothers have a Chechen family name but American education,” he said, according to the Chechen Republic press office. “You don’t bear any responsibility for this.”
And while Mr. Depardieu recently announced plans to open a restaurant in Saransk, he offered high praise for the cuisine in Chechnya, as well as perhaps a small dig at his estranged homeland.
“I am familiar with the national dishes of many nations and countries,” he said, according to the Chechen press office. “And you know, in my opinion, the best cuisines are in Chechnya, India and Great Britain.”
But the theme of the day was clearly the occasionally transient nature of national identity. And in a sense, Mr. Depardieu noted, portraying a Frenchman in Chechnya would bring him full circle. He recalled, the Chechen press office said, that the 19th-century French writer Alexandre Dumas had once called Chechens the French of the Caucasus.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: May 21, 2013
An earlier version of this article incorrectly described a character that Gérard Depardieu is playing in a movie being filmed in Moscow and Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. According to a treatment on the director’s Web site, Mr. Depardieu will play a Frenchman, not a Chechen. The article also incorrectly reported the number of films he is making there; at his news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Depardieu referred only to one film, not two.