Gerard Depardieu offered to surrender his passport after Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called his decision to seek tax exile in Belgium "pathetic."
“I am leaving because you consider success, creativity, talent, anything different are grounds for sanction,” the movie star, known for such classic French roles as Cyrano de Bergerac and the musketeer Porthos, wrote in correspondence to Ayrault published today in Le Journal du Dimanche. “I don’t expect to be pitied or praised but I reject the word pathetic.”
Depardieu, the latest celebrity to leave France after Socialist President Francoise Hollande introduced a slew of new levies since he was elected in May, said he has paid 145 million euros in taxes over the course of his 45-year working life that began at age 14. As well as a 75 percent tax on income over 1 million euros ($1.3 million) Hollande has also added new charges on capital gains, an increased tax on wealth, a boost to inheritance charges and an exit tax for entrepreneurs selling their companies.
The 63-year-old actor, who also played Jean Valjean, the post-revolution Frenchman convicted for stealing a loaf of bread, in a television version of “Les Miserables,” joins a wave of departures among entrepreneurs, businessmen and retirees, according to Philippe Kenel, a Geneva-based tax lawyer at Python, Schifferli, Peter & Associates.
“I am totally scandalized,” Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti said on BFM-TV today. “Gerard Depardieu is abandoning the battleground in the middle of the war against the crisis.”
The actor, who played Obelix in films on one of France’s most beloved fictional characters, said in the newspaper he paid tax at an 85 percent rate on his 2012 income.
“Pathetic, you said ‘pathetic?’ It’s pathetic,” Depardieu’s letter to the prime minister began. “I don’t have to justify the reasons for my choice, which are numerous and personal. Who are you to judge me in this way?”
Telephone calls to Depardieu’s home and to his press agent weren’t returned.
The letter comes after Ayrault last week referred to as “quite pathetic” news of Depardieu’s plan to move to the Belgian community of Nechin, just across the French border.
Depardieu’s departure highlights the need for France to renegotiate a fiscal agreement with Belgium, said Labor Minister Michel Sapin, condemning the actor’s attitude and defending the Socialist party’s tax increases.
When you give up your French passport “you no longer want to be part of the mother country,” Sapin said in a radio interview on Europe 1. “I know him well, he’s a man of extravagance and exaggeration.”
Depardieu, who was born in the Loire-region town of Chateauroux, gained famed in the U.S. playing a cigarette-smoking, wine-swilling French bon vivant who marries a prissy American played by Andie MacDowell for residency in “Green Card.”
He was often spotted seated alongside the wife of former French President Jacques Chirac at campaign events for former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost his re-election bid to Hollande in May.
“I would advise him to keep his passport,” Sapin said. “It’s a personal comedown that’s hurtful. It’s an attitude that isn’t fitting for the actor.”
French billionaire Bernard Arnault, chief executive officer of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, filed an application for Belgian nationality in September. While he promised to continue paying taxes in France, the action prompted fierce criticism from Hollande and his supporters.
The high-profile moves by wealthy citizens to leave France “show that we have a just tax policy,” Sapin said. Depardieu “may be going to Belgium so as not to pay a tax on fortunes in France.”
Depardieu’s exit comes as the French government is seeking to bolster revenue through taxes on large companies, Internet startups and private fortunes to make its budget-deficit target of 3 percent of gross domestic product next year. Hollande, the first Socialist president in France since 1995, has called on those “with the most to show patriotism” in tough times.