Macron’s Response to Gérard Depardieu Sparks Protests in France

The actor is the subject of a nationwide controversy

Protests in France
A feminist activist holds a placard reading "On the victims' side, not of the side of the perpetrators" during a demonstration against sexism.

What happens when one of a nation’s most famous actors is accused of sexual misconduct by numerous women? It turns out that a head of state’s comments on the matter can have a significant effect on the public response. In France, actor Gérard Depardieu is currently at the center of a substantial #MeToo scandal. Last year, Le Monde reported that 13 women had accused the actor of sexual misconduct — specifically, groping them while on set. A documentary released later in the year, Depardieu: The Fall of an Ogre, showed the actor engaged in more unsettling behavior.

Complicating matters further was the release of a letter signed by a host of celebrities and other public figures — Charlotte Rampling and Carla Bruni among them — stating that the attacks on Depardieu were somehow anti-art. And then the nation’s president, Emmanuel Macron, decided to enter the fray. According to The Guardian, Macron referred to Depardieu as the subject of a “manhunt” and added, “as president and as a citizen, he makes France proud.”

As Alexandra Marshall reported at Air Mail, the response to Macron’s remarks has led to schisms within the president’s political party along with broader conflicts within the country’s creative community. And that’s to say nothing of the street protests that began earlier this week.

It’s worth mentioning now that this is far from the first time the actor has faced blowback over past sexual misconduct — or, in one case, his comments addressing his past actions. In 2001, when taking part in an interview for Film Comment, Depardieu said that in his youth, “I had plenty of rapes, too many to count.” The response to his comments, not surprisingly, sparked no small amount of controversy, especially after he confirmed this in a follow-up interview with Time.

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It’s unclear what, exactly, Macron was thinking or expecting when he made his remarks. The controversy over writer Gabriel Matzneff a few years ago sparked a similar reckoning in France — and the fact that this is playing out in very different terms is thoroughly unsettling.

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