The Green Card star is hoping to make Russia his home in an effort to avoid the French government's plans to hike the taxes of their richest residents - and it appears he's a big fan of Putin.
Singing the praises of the leader in an interview on Russian TV on Sunday (13Jan13), the actor took aim at those opposed to the President, including the members of punk band Pussy Riot, who were jailed for protesting against Putin in a Moscow church last year (12).
Depardieu said, "If these girls had entered a mosque, they wouldn't have come out alive. Even in a Catholic world that would have been scary. But when I say things like that in France, they think I am an idiot.
"The Russian opposition has no programme, nothing... There are some very smart people, like (chess champion Garry) Kasparov, but that is only good for chess. That's it. Politics is a lot more complicated."
Two members of Pussy Riot are still serving time behind bars following their imprisonment last summer (12). Many celebrities, like Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney, have spoken out about the decision to jail the punk rockers.
Depardieu was issued a passport from Putin on 3 January (13) after going public with his plans to leave his native France.
Calling Russia "a great democracy", the star appeared on TV last week (ends11Jan13) in traditional Russian dress waving his new passport.
The actor has been a regular in the headlines of his home country since he announced he was moving to neighbouring Belgium amid a dispute over government plans to raise taxes on the wealthy.
He recently became a Russian citizen after accepting a new passport from President Vladimir Putin, but was expected to return home to his native France this week (beg07Jan13) to appear before magistrates and hear his sentence over a scooter crash in Paris in November (12).
Depardieu pleaded guilty to a drink-driving charge stemming from the incident after he was found to be three times over the country's legal alcohol limit, and he faces a possible two-year prison sentence and a fine.
However, Depardieu failed to appear for the scheduled Monday morning hearing.
Reports suggest Depardieu, who was denied a request to have the hearing postponed, could be slapped with the maximum possible sentence for failing to attend the court date.
The actor's lawyer Eric de Caumont told reporters outside the court his client was "abroad for professional reasons," adding, "He had professional obligations as he had to meet producers for a film shoot that will start mid-January."
The Green Card star was in Russia over the weekend (05-06Jan13) to pick up his new passport, and he was in Switzerland on Monday night (07Jan13) to attend the annual Ballon D'Or soccer award ceremony.
Depardieu is now expected to face a hearing at a criminal court in Paris later this year (13).
The Green Card star became headline news in his native France last month (Dec12) when he moved across the border to the Belgian village of Nechin in an apparent attempt to avoid a steep tax hike aimed at the country's wealthiest residents.
He applied for Russian citizenship, and his request was granted on Thursday (03Jan13), allowing Depardieu to sacrifice his French passport and escape to Eastern Europe to start a new life.
Depardieu was invited to toast his new citizenship with Putin at his holiday resort in Sochi and the pair was photographed shaking hands and hugging as the actor was welcomed to Russia.
On Sunday (06Jan13), the star flew to the city of Saransk in the region of Mordovia, where he was greeted by the local governor and a group of folk-singing women dressed in traditional costume in a bid to convince the star to settle in the area.
Flashing his new passport, Depardieu told reporters, "I am very happy, it's very beautiful here. Beautiful and soulful people live here."
The Green Card star became headline news in France last month (Dec12) when he moved across the border to the Belgian village of Nechin in an apparent attempt to avoid a steep tax hike aimed at the country's most wealthy residents.
On Thursday (03Jan13), Russian President Vladimir Putin cleared the star for a Russian passport and Depardieu has now written an open letter to officials in the country to thank them for making him a citizen.
In the message, he writes, "I filed a passport application and I am pleased that it was accepted. I love your country, Russia - its people, its history, its writers. I love your culture, your intelligence...
"I told (French President Francois Hollande) that Russia was a great democracy and that it wasn't a country where a prime minister would call a citizen pathetic."
Depardieu was branded "pathetic" by France's Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and the comment prompted the actor to announce plans to give up his French citizenship.
Under French law, residents are not allowed to give up their citizenship until they have been offered nationality by another country.
In the letter, which was read out on Russian TV, the actor also lavished praise on the country and revealed he is taking up language lessons.
He adds, "In Russia, there is the good life. I prefer the countryside, and I know some marvelous places in Russia... I feel good. And I'm learning Russian... Glory to Russia!"
Gerard Depardieu couldn't have a more French name if he tried, but the Green Card actor and internationally renowned airplane ruiner is now a Russian citizen. According to the Associated Press, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved Depardieu's application for citizenship.
Depardieu, 64, has been upset about his native France's proposed super tax on millionaires. The Oscar-nominated actor, most recently seen stateside in Life of Pi, wrote an open letter in response to French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault calling him "pathetic" for his criticism. "I have never killed anyone, I don't think I've been unworthy, I've paid (EURO)145 million ($190 million) in taxes over 45 years. I will neither complain nor brag, but I refuse to be called `pathetic,'" he wrote.
Back in December, Putin said of Depardieu's urge to leave France, "As we say, artists are easily offended and therefore I understand the feelings of Mr. Depardieu." In short, this all has the makings of a truly awesome, completely unintelligible movie.
Speaking of movies, since Depardieu is likely packing up his bike and baguettes to leave France, will he now become a bona fide Russian star? (Watch your back, Anton Yelchin!)
If Depardieu works on his Russian accent, he too could fill the stereotypical roles of:
- Evil Super Villain: Other than Middle Easterners, no other country producers more maniacal villains hellbent on taking down action heroes quite like the Russians. (See Die Hard, Bond movies, etc.)
- Rocky Villain: The only thing better than a new Rocky movie with Rocky fighting Ivan Drago, would be a new Rocky movie with Rocky fighting Gerard Depardieu.
- The Comic Relief Who Drinks Too Much: Get it? Because of the vodka.
- Fiddler on the Roof!
-Who Cares, So Long As It's Anything That Puts Him In A Ushanka Hat.
[Photo credit: WENN]
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The Green Card star moved to the Belgian village of Nechin, just minutes from the French border, after the government pushed ahead with plans to introduce a 75 per cent tax on millionaires to help boost France's ailing economy.
Depardieu was criticised by French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault over the move, but he has the support of another world leader as Russia's President Vladimir Putin has cleared the star for a Russian passport.
A statement from the Russian government reads, "Vladimir Putin has signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to France's Gerard Depardieu."
It is not known whether the actor has accepted the offer.
The actress hit the headlines when she split from her boyfriend Robert Pattinson after confessing to an "indiscretion" with her Snow White & the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders.
She rekindled her romance with Pattinson shortly before they began promoting their final vampire film, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, and now the brunette beauty has earned a spot on E!'s end-of-year round-up for handling the controversy with dignity.
Explaining Stewart's position at number seven on the list, editors at EOnline.com write, "What do you do when you screw up, and get caught? If you're the Twilight actress, you apologise, put your head down and do your work, even if doing your work means putting you in front of the same people - the press and the public - who spent their summer scrutinising and criticising your every move. It may not be the classic feel-good tale, but it's a blueprint nonetheless on how to take your lumps."
Other stars who made the list include R&B singer Frank Ocean, who 'came out' as gay in July (12), and female punk band Pussy Riot. Three members of the group were jailed in August (12) for performing a protest song against Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow church.
Get your minds out of the gutter. The headline doesn't refer to a bad, graphic adult movie, but Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot. The group was arrested in March for performing a song with lyrics critical to President Vladimir Putin on the altar of a Russian Orthodox church. On Wednesday, the three female band members — Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22 — appeared in a Moscow appeals court to face their two-year prison sentences for "hooliganism." While Aloykhina and Tolokonnikova's sentences were upheld, Samutsevich's was suspended, USA Today reports.
Samutsevich's sentence was suspended because guards reportedly threw her out of the cathedral before she could take her guitar out of its case and perform. "The punishment for an incomplete crime is much lighter than for a completed one," her attorney, Irina Khrunova, said. "She did not participate in the actions the court found constituted hooliganism."
While all three women were convicted in August of hooliganism that was said to be motivated by religious hatred, the band members claim that their February performance was just a political protest and not an attack on religion. "If we unintentionally offended any believers with our actions, we express our apologies," Samutsevich said in court. "The idea of the protest was political, not religious. In this and in previous protests we acted against the current government of the president, and against the Russian Orthodox Church as an institution of the Russian government, against the political comments of the Russian patriarch. Exactly because of this I don't consider that I committed a crime."
The case has been criticized around the world as an example of Putin's increasing control over order. "It is impermissible to undermine our moral foundations, moral values, to try to destroy the country," Putin recently said of the band's protest.
"We will not be silent," Alyokhina said Wednesday. "And even if we are in Mordovia or Siberia (where prisoners in Russia are often sent to serve out their terms) we won't be silent." Tolokonnikova added: "I don't consider myself guilty. But again I ask all those who are listening to me for the last time: I don't want people to be angry at me: Yes, I'm going to prison, but I don't want anyone to think that there is any hatred in me."
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
[Photo Credit: Natalia Kolesnikova/Getty Images]
Why You Should Care About the Pussy Riot Verdict
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were found guilty of hooliganism on Friday (17Aug12) after performing a protest song against Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow church earlier this year (12).
They were sentenced to two years in prison, and stars including Madonna and Sting have called for the rockers to be freed.
Actor and comedian Fry has now written a letter to the band, posted on Amnesty International's website, in which he sympathises with the musicians.
Fry writes, "I can't imagine how you are feeling at the moment as you begin the astoundingly unfair and disproportionate prison sentence that has been handed out to you. It might cheer you to know that so many people around the world are thinking of you and doing what they can, through Amnesty International and other bodies, to see if your sentence can't be reduced, commuted or suspended...
"Some cynics (and believe me, my country is stuffed with them) will ask why I am not writing to those imprisoned in Iran or China. Well, I have the faint, perhaps forlorn, hope, that Russia and its leader might be faintly more persuadable...
"Putin hasn't made a monster of himself. He has made a fool of himself. It is often said that had the world laughed at Hitler early enough he would never have taken the hold on power he did. I do not call Putin a Hitler. Yet. But it is time to laugh him out of this stance and you out of incarceration."
Yes, Pussy Riot sounds like a dirty word and it's a shame that most newspapers shy away from it because it's all everyone is going to be talking about today. Just what is a Pussy Riot and why should you care about it?
Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock band that performed a song with lyrics critical to President Vladimir on the altar of a Russian Orthodox church (a video of the performance is below). The three women were arrested for "hooliganism" in March and put in jail for several months awaiting a verdict. Today they were found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison for the protest.
So, why should we care about three Russian women misbehaving in a church? Pussy Riot is a small part of growing anti-government sentiment in Russia which could eventually have a huge impact on international politics. But of course protests and marches don't make for every exciting news, but three young women in masks pissing off the government makes for a much better headline. Thanks to their celebrity proponents like Madonna (who expressed that they should be freed when performing in Moscow earlier this year) and Sting, Pussy Riot has become a lot more famous than any other dissidents and a symbol for a growing movement in the country.
Anyone that cares about free speech should care about Pussy Riot. Sure, they were charged with "hooliganism" but their real crime was speaking out against Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, which is supporting his third run for president. While Russian espouses to be a democracy, if people aren't allowed to speak and create art freely, than there is no liberty in the country. Fighting for Pussy Riot is a fight for freedom everywhere. Even if they were found guilty of breaking the law, two years in jail for one song seems a bit harsh.
Ever since there arrests there have been constant protests to free them in Russia, including loud protests outside the courtroom today where police were arresting participants (including outspoken government oppositionist and chess legend Gary Kasparov). There have also been arrests as Pussy Riot protests at the Russian consulate in New York, and there have been protests today in London and other major cities. This is no longer just a Russian problem, but an international incident. And anyone who cares about free speech and international politics should have an opinion about it. [Photo credit: WENN.com]
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