French investigative site claims Depardieu groped extras

PARIS (AP) РA French investigative news website claims that actor G̩rard Depardieu has been accused of harassing, groping or sexually assaulting 13 young women, mainly extras.

Most of the claims reported by the Mediapart website relate to film shoots between 2004 and 2022.

None of the women has filed a complaint. Depardieu himself has denied any criminal behavior.

Depardieu, 74, is among France’s most well-known stars. He was placed under investigation in December 2020 for rape and sexual assault, reportedly at his Paris home, following claims by an actress in 2018. The investigation is ongoing.

Mediapart, which is regarded as a reliable website, published the accusations in an article on Tuesday. They feed into the long-standing stereotype of an industry full of dirty secrets where silence is golden.

The incidents allegedly took place in public places, mainly on film sets.

In a Manhattan cabaret for the filming of the 2015 movie “Big House,” Depardieu allegedly tried to fondle three non-French extras. One of them, then aged 24, recounted to Mediapart, “I felt his fingers trying to slip in to get to my knickers.”

The wardrobe assistant for the 2015 movie “Big House,” Isabel Butel, told Mediapart of her shock at the reaction on set. “It was kind of ‘Oh that’s Gérard, he’s a bit mischievous!'” she was quoted as saying.

Another extra, identified as Hélène Darras, then 26, went to the police last year, 14 years after Depardieu allegedly kept grabbing her buttocks during filming of the 2008 comedy “Disco.” Darras stayed silent at the time, not wanting to “make an enemy of casting directors.” She eventually gave her account to police because “the film world is full of Gérards and we have to speak up,” she said.

Those interviewed, be they actresses, location assistants or others, said they complained about Depardieu’s vulgar remarks, groans and straying hands but drew only silence, or laughs, from others.

“People are afraid,” Mediapart quoted one casting director as saying. She said her colleagues and friends unanimously reacted to her decision to talk to Mediapart by saying, “Are you crazy?”

Lawyers for Depardieu, from the law firm Temime, “formally deny all allegations that (could) concern criminal law,” Mediapart wrote, and called the allegations a “veritable indictment” to which the actor has no intention of responding.

Depardieu, who has appeared in 200 films over six decades, is one of only 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.

Depardieu’s 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 Misérables,” 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. The charges against Strauss-Kahn were later dropped.

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