The French have 'lost their happiness’, says Depardieu
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Film star Gérard Depardieu, who left his native France after a tax row with authorities, said in an interview on Thursday that the French have become miserable under President François Hollande, adding that France is “not interesting anymore”.
“[The French] have lost their happiness. They don’t believe in it anymore,” Depardieu said in a lengthy interview that coincided with Thursday’s release of his autobiography, “Ça s’est fait comme ça” (That’s How It’s Done).
“I feel sorry for the French when I hear what they tell me. When I’m in France … people ask me, ‘So are you coming back?’ I tell them: ‘Well, no.’ I stay there for two days and then I return to what people think is a dictatorship,” the actor told French weekly Le Point, referring to his new home in Russia, where he relocated after President Vladimir Putin offered him citizenship last year.
The movie star said that, under Hollande’s leadership, “France has become something that no one talks about anymore… You don’t talk about it, because it’s not interesting anymore.”
The outspoken – and often controversial – actor said that the final straw came when the Socialist government, shortly after Hollande’s inauguration in 2012, announced plans to impose a 75 percent tax rate on the wealthy, including Depardieu.
“I felt as though they were trying to mow me down. As if I were a collaborator in 1945,” he said, referring to France’s post-World War II pursuit of Nazi sympathisers.
“There’s such hatred for the rich. Such bitterness, such spite,” the actor said, insisting that it was the French attitude towards the rich – rather than the threat of the 75 percent tax itself – that made him leave.
When France’s then prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, accused Depardieu of being “pathetic”, the actor phoned up Hollande to complain: “‘Long live France,’ I said. ‘I’m getting out of here.’”
Hollande’s tax plan was later struck down by France's highest legal body, the Constitutional Council.
‘France needs a sales rep’
Depardieu, who is clearly no fan of modern-day French politics, warned that not only the country’s spirits but also its image was about to go down the drain due to a lack of leadership.
“I’m wondering where the France of the French Revolution went, or that of [General Charles] de Gaulle, or that of [former president Georges] Pompidou,” he said.
“If we carry on like this, France will become a new Disney World, it will be 'France World': People will be wearing berets and carrying baguettes under their arms, and all the Chinese tourists will come here to touch their moustaches and big noses.”
Instead of having politicians as heads of state, Depardieu suggested that France should consider hiring a sales manager to run the country.
“[Nicolas] Sarkozy has proven himself to be a good sales representative,” he said, adding that although he sometimes found the former right-wing president irritating as a politician, it was nice that Sarkozy “had found peace” with his singer-songwriter wife Carla Bruni.
Last month, Sarkozy announced his return to politics after a more than two-year political hiatus.
Friends with Putin
Depardieu, whose friendship with Putin has raised more than one eyebrow during the West’s standoff with Russia over the Ukraine crisis, said that he has forged a special bond with the Russian leader.
“I’ve read that I’m friends with a dictator, but I’ve never been a fan of either Stalin or Hitler… Nor that other idiot in North Korea,” in an apparent reference to leader Kim Jong-un.
“Putin, he’s like me. He comes from nowhere and no one bet a penny on him when he was a kid. It could have turned out very badly for him in Leningrad, where he was born and where he became a delinquent. Just like me, I tell you!” Depardieu said, adding that he admires Putin for choosing “discipline over that other crap”.
And, he added, “Putin loves history.”