Actor Gerard Depardieu will stand trial for driving
while intoxicated after failing to show up to a meeting with a French
prosecutor to resolve the case out of court, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Depardieu, 64, who has admitted to driving his scooter drunk in Paris on November 29, was summoned to appear before a prosecutor to discuss a punishment.
But the controversial actor, who travelled to Russia at the weekend to meet with President Vladimir Putin and receive a Russian passport, failed to show up.
His lawyer, Eric de Caumont, told BFMTV that his client, who attended the FIFA Ballon d'Or ceremony in Zurich Monday evening, was "finalizing a big budget film project" that was due to start shooting in the second half of January in New York.
He appeared to be referring to a film about former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn by US director Abel Ferrara in which Depardieu is to star alongside Isabelle Adjani.
BFMTV reported the actor was currently meeting with producers at a festival in Montenegro.
De Caumont said the actor regretted his absence and confirmed it meant that "in a few months Gerard Depardieu will appear before a criminal court." His no-show Tuesday was "absolutely not" an attempt to avoid justice, he stressed.
The larger-than-life Frenchman, who is famous for his boozing, was caught driving while drunk after he crashed his scooter. A breathalyser test showed he had a blood alcohol level of 1.8 grams per litre, more than three times the legal limit.
Driving while drunk carries a fine of up to 4,500 euros (5,911 dollars) and a sentence of up to two years in prison. Depardieu could also have his driver's licence withdrawn for up to three years.
Depardieu's legal troubles are just the latest act in a saga that has tarnished the image of one of France's most celebrated actors.
His fall from grace began in December when it emerged he had taken up residency in Belgium to avoid France's punishing wealth taxes, following in the footsteps of numerous other stars and business people.
His relations with France's Socialist government deteriorated sharply after Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault labelled his move to the Belgian village of Nechin "pathetic."
Depardieu riposted by vowing to renounce his French citizenship. Shortly afterwards, Putin stepped in with the offer of shelter in his country, which Depardieu made a show of accepting with a hug during a visit last weekend.
During the trip, he visited the remote region of Mordovia, best known for its gulag prison camps. Local residents presented him with two kittens among other gifts and invited him to make his home there.
Depardieu was lambasted in France and among Russian opposition activists for cosying up to Putin.
In an interview Monday in the Swiss city of Zurich, where he attended FIFA's Ballon d'Or ceremony, he denied he was turning his back on his homeland or trying to dodge taxes.
"If I'd wanted to escape the taxman, as the French press say, I would have done it a long time ago," he told L'Equipe 21 sports channel.
"I have a Russian passport, but I remain French and I will probably have dual Belgian nationality."
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