The actress accusing the 72-year-old French movie actor first filed a complaint with details of alleged rape and assault in August 2018 but the case was dropped, only to be reopened in 2020.

In this file photo taken on February 18, 2018, French actor Gerard Depardieu poses during a photocall for the second season of the French TV show
In this file photo taken on February 18, 2018, French actor Gerard Depardieu poses during a photocall for the second season of the French TV show "Marseille" broadcasted and co-produced by US streaming video giant Netflix in Marseille, southern France. (AFP Archive)

French film giant Gerard Depardieu has been charged with rape and sexual assault after authorities revived a 2018 investigation that was initially dropped, the latest in a string of such allegations against prominent figures in France.

The prosecutor’s office addressed the charges on Tuesday after the case was leaked to French media and said that Depardieu was not detained when he was handed the preliminary charges on December 16.

Depardieu, one of the most famous French actors of his generation, is accused of assaulting and raping an actress in her 20s in 2018.

The actress, who has not been named, first filed a complaint with details of alleged rape and assault in August 2018 in the southern French city of Aix-en-Provence. 

The probe was take over by Paris investigators, but was soon dropped in 2019 for lack of evidence.

But it was reopened last summer, leading to criminal charges being filed in December, the judicial source said.

French newspaper Le Parisien and broadcaster BFM TV said the woman alleged that Depardieu assaulted her on August 7 and August 13, 2018 at his home in Paris. 

The two met when Depardieu led a master class at her school, BFM TV reported.

Depardieu's lawyer Herve Temime told AFP that the actor, who is free but under judicial supervision, "completely rejects the accusations".

He also said he regretted that the case had been made public.

According to a source close to the case, Depardieu is a friend of the actress's family.

READ MORE: #Metoo campaign moves to French streets

Illustrious career

The 72-year-old has appeared in 200 films over six decades and is among a few French actors who have made a name for themselves in Hollywood. He won a Golden Globe for his performance in “Green Card,” a 1990 English-language romantic comedy co-starring Andie MacDowell.
His first big hit in France was “Les Valseuses,” (“Going Places”), Bertrand Blier’s classic farce about two wandering thugs.

Before crossing the Atlantic to star in “Green Card," Depardieu played an array of roles, ranging from Jean Valjean, the thief-turned-saint in “Les Miserables,” to Christopher Columbus.

In 2014, he played the leading role in “Welcome to New York,” the film inspired by the life of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former director of the International Monetary Fund who was accused in 2011 of sexually assaulting a hotel maid.

'Nothing professional' 

Some reports have suggested that Depardieu and the actress were rehearsing a scene of a theatre play, but the source said "there was nothing professional about the encounter".

The woman's lawyer, Elodie Tuaillon-Hibon, told AFP that she hoped her client's "private sphere will be respected" as the case unfolds.

Besides long being a superstar in his home country, Depardieu is one of France's best-known actors abroad.

He won acclaim in French-language films such as "The Last Metro" and "Jean de Florette," but went on to perform in a range of English-language movies, including the romantic comedy "Green Card" and a film version of "Hamlet".

He is famous for untiringly shooting film after film clocking up more than 200 cinema or TV films over more than 50 years.

But over the course of his career he has often been embroiled in scandals which have hit the headlines, and thrown public tantrums. 

READ MORE: Victims of incest in France come forward in the thousands

His dark side 

He knocked a paparazzi unconscious in 2005, urinated in the cabin of a Paris-Dublin flight in 2011 and attacked a motorist in central Paris in 2012. The following year he ws fined for drink driving.

"The man is dark but the actor is huge," actress Catherine Deneuve, who starred alongside Depardieu in The Last Metro, said of him.

Depardieu announced in late 2012 that he was "giving his passport back" to protest against French tax rates, went into tax exile in Belgium and became a citizen of Russia which he called "a great democracy", regularly praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.

After Paris prosecutors reopened the case brought by the actress, an investigating magistrate questioned Depardieu on December 16 and, finding "serious and corroborated evidence", brought the charges.

Police also proceeded to a confrontation between Depardieu and his alleged victim, a judicial source said.

Depardieu is the father of four, including the actor Guillaume Depardieu who died in 2008.

Besides his prolific acting career, he has also been a winemaker, restaurant owner and a singer.

Just over three years since the #MeToo movement broke taboos around rape across the world, France is seeing an outpouring of stories and a wide-ranging debate about sex, power and consent.

Wave of allegations 

Other big names in cinema to be accused of sexual assault or rape include director Luc Besson, whose films include "Nikita" and "The Fifth Element".

Week after week new revelations have targeted the rich and powerful, with one of the country's best-known television presenters, Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, becoming the latest to be accused of rape.

The French political establishment has also been rocked by similar accusations, including against current Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

And a former French government minister, Georges Tron, last week began serving three years in prison after a court found him guilty of raping an employee during "foot massages" in his office and at the home of his co-defendant.

Source: AFP