Gérard Depardieu is one of those actors who is recognised around the world, from America to Asia. He has played roles as diverse as Christopher Columbus, the Count of Monte-Christo, Cyrano de Bergerac, and soon Rasputin.
Depardieu has worked opposite Robert de Niro, Catherine Deneuve and has won a Palme d’Or, a Golden Globe and two Golden Lions at Venice.
And in the birthplace of cinema, Lyon, he has just received the Prix Lumiere, given each year to one of the big names in cinema worldwide.
Euronews took the opportunity to catch up with him and ask if he feels that he is — in the Pantheon of cinema — one of its superstars?
Gérard Depardieu: “Oh I don’t know. I have never tried to be a superstar, even if people put me in that position, I don’t refuse it. And what matters to me is that I don’t stop there. What matters, it’s really – it’s a bit of what’s happening in Lyon – sharing moments, including the films I’ve done, as a viewer, sharing with them emotional moments, moments of violence, unrest, these things, being together.”
euronews: “You have quoted Peter Handke, who talking about actors said ‘when you become an actor, you burn your life’.”
Depardieu: “When all of a sudden you see yourself on screen, all or a part of what you’ve done, it’s tricky, because there are emotional moments in every film, a moment where you are overwhelmed. And then there’s a moment where you say to yourself ‘that’s too much’.
“I’m shooting a film at the moment where I play a hero, but a hero from World War One. He’s not dead but he has a bullet in his head. Hostages were taken because of a German death, they demanded 20 people, that’s how it happened then. And the small village made arrangements so that my character Ipu, who is sick, he still has a bullet in his head, they try to convince him to be one of the hostages. Ipu agrees but says he wants to see his funeral, the statue that they are going to make for him, he wants everyone to see, to see all that. I have the impression of that when I watch my films; all that I have done, finally, you notice that you – from the inside – see things differently.”
Euronews: “You’re talking about the film you’re shooting alongside Harvey Keitel, a Romanian film, shot in Romania and Belgium… what do you think about European cinema?
Depardieu: “I think that unfortunately distribution is lacking, that the television stations of each country are not quite up to it. They look for an audience and they all make the same mistakes. They should invest in a small channel which shows films.
“In cinemas now we have 20 films a week coming out. Taking account of this mass of films, distributors can’t cope, they take the one with the biggest returns, it’s like a supermarket and that’s a shame. So they have hold events around cinema to bring in the public.”
Euronews: “You work outside France, you have filmed with Bertolucci in Italy, worked in the Americas, you’re soon going to play Rasputin, do you consider yourself a European soul?
Depardieu: “Completely, completely. Countries have their stories, their cultures and it’s that which interests me, to go there, to immerse myself. With cinema, as a viewer, you can identify yourself with a hero or a character, and for me, it’s the same, I want to find people who I identify with and try to pass a bit of time with this character.”
Euronews: “Your roots are working class, you come from a little town in the middle of France, how do you see your journey, are you the archetypal self-made man?”
Depardieu: “No, I don’t even know, I don’t see, I don’t want anything. Luckily, I had no ambition, the only ambition was to watch other people and then to try and amuse myself with this look, and at the same time to try to take the beauty at the moment where these people are overwhelmed by their misery, by their joy. It is simply love of others which moves me to go and do something for them. It is the opposite with bulimia. I think when you’re bulimic, you’re killing yourself. I won’t die like that. I’ll die as I live – watching other people. A bit like the knight William Marshall, where the people came to take a piece of his clothing as a keepsake. Hopefully, though, death and eternity can wait.”
Gérard Depardieu: a life in film