PARIS (AFP) – A court on Friday ordered eccentric French actor Gerard Depardieu to pay a 4,000 euro ($5,290) fine and suspended his driver's licence for six months for driving his scooter in Paris while drunk.
The 64-year-old star, who has made headlines in recent months with erratic behaviour and a tax feud with French authorities, was arrested in November after falling off his scooter while more than three times over the legal alcohol limit.
He was sentenced in absentia after repeatedly skipping court appearances. Depardieu has in recent weeks been filming a movie in Russia.
He faced a maximum sentence of up to two years in prison, though prosecutors had not called for jail time.
The actor's lawyer Eric de Caumont said he was disappointed by the ruling, after arguing in court that his client had only drunk a few glasses of champagne several hours before driving.
"I will inform Gerard Depardieu of the ruling in the coming hours and will see him next week in Moscow, where he is shooting a film," Caumont told reporters. He said a decision had not yet been made on whether to appeal the ruling.
Prosecutors had told the court that a "strong smell of alcohol" had come from the actor when police arrived at the scene after he fell off the scooter. He initially refused to take an alcohol test, telling officers that he had been drinking.
Hailed as one of the greatest actors of his generation, Depardieu starred in films including "Green Card", "Cyrano de Bergerac", "Jean de Florette" and the "Asterix & Obelix" series. He also owns a number of businesses including vineyards.
But in recent years he has become as famed for his off-screen behaviour as for his acting talents.
The star announced in November he was moving abroad after President Francois Hollande's Socialist government sought to impose a 75 percent tax rate on annual incomes over one million euros.
He took up residency in Belgium and was granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin. The decision sparked controversy, as have his friendships with Putin and Chechnya's strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Depardieu recently told a French newspaper he considered himself a "citizen of the world" and said he was also applying for an Algerian passport. He said he hoped eventually to have citizenship in seven countries.
In August, he was cautioned after punching a motorist who had forced him to swerve on his scooter, and in 2011 he generated global headlines when he tried to urinate in a bottle aboard a plane as it prepared to take off from Paris for Dublin.
In the interview with Le Journal du Dimanche earlier this month, Depardieu described himself as "someone who is a bit of a rebel, who shakes things up and who is sometimes drunk."