PARIS, France (AFP) – Veteran French actor Gerard Depardieu is shooting a film in Paris for the first time since he sparked a huge outcry by leaving France for tax reasons and taking Russian nationality.
In an exclusive interview with AFP, the 64-year-old film star said he did not move out of the country to escape the taxman but to flee "the way governments use the money they take."
The award-winning performer made global headlines late last year when he decided to move to Belgium after the Socialist government sought to impose a 75 percent tax rate on annual incomes over one million euros ($1.3 million).
He was subsequently granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin. The decision prompted controversy, as have his friendships with Putin and Chechnya's strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov -- both accused of human rights violations.
"It's the first time that I'm shooting again in France (since the controversy)", he told AFP Sunday of his new film about the history of the FIFA World Cup, in which he plays the competition's creator Jules Rimet.
"I had refused all French films as people could not understand. I am Russian and a Belgian resident. I live in Russia, where I spent three-and-a-half months. I have firms in the countries in which I live because it's more advantageous.
"In 15 years, I have spent maybe only five months in France. Since December 2012, a month-and-a-half... I am not escaping the taxman but the way governments use the money they take," he said by phone.
The film shoot in Paris will only last around 20 days, and Depardieu will be acting in English alongside "an international cast" of British, Australian and American actors including Tim Roth, he said, without giving more details.
Under the helm of French director Frederic Auburtin, the actors will also work on location in Brazil, Switzerland and Spain, and the film is due to come out in time for the 2014 World Cup.
Known as much for his acting skills as for his erratic off-screen behaviour, Depardieu was recently fined 4,000 euros ($5,315) and had his licence suspended for driving his scooter in Paris while drunk in November.
But according to a person close to the actor, who refused to be named, he is now "on top form and has stopped all excesses."
Depardieu will also star as Dominique Strauss-Kahn in an upcoming film inspired by the spectacular fall from grace of the French former IMF chief, who was accused of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid.