It is one of the roles that helped make him an international superstar. In the 1990 hit movie “Green Card,” Gerard Depardieu played a Frenchman seeking to acquire permanent U.S. residence -- and win the heart of a beautiful woman.
Now 63, Depardieu is again seeking residence abroad, this time in real life -- and he’s looking eastward rather than westward.
Although much loved in France, the colorful bon viveur has stated that he is handing back his French passport and social security card after a public spat with Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
On December 12, the politician criticized Depardieu for wanting to move to lower-tax Belgium at a time when France must fight a huge national debt.
"He's a great star, everybody loves him as an artist," Ayrault said. "But settling right on the other side of the border is somewhat pathetic. All that in order to pay no taxes or less taxes."
Depardieu hit back, lambasting the government for punishing "success, creation, talent" and put up his luxury Parisian home for sale.
On December 19, he told French daily “Le Monde” that besides Belgium, he could already count on two more countries to host him -- Montenegro, where he has friends and business interests, and Russia. "[President Vladimir] Putin has already sent me a passport!" Depardieu said.
The Russian strongman half-confirmed Depardieu’s statement at his annual news conference in Moscow on December 20.
"If Gerard truly wants to have either a Russian residence permit or a Russian passport, let's consider this issue settled positively," he said.
Chechen Tax Haven?
In case Depardieu actually lays his hands on a Russian passport, he’s already been offered a safe (tax) haven in Russia's troubled North Caucasus republic of Chechnya.
On December 19, Chechnya’s iron-fisted ruler, Ramzan Kadyrov, wrote on Twitter that "If he [Depardieu] is given Russian citizenship, we are ready to accept the actor in Grozny. Welcome."
The French actor is no stranger to Grozny, which he visited in October to attend Kadyrov's birthday, following in the footsteps of other movie stars who attended the event in previous years.
Footage from the event shows Depardieu shouting from a vast stage in Russian: "Glory to Grozny! Glory to Chechnya! Glory to Kadyrov!"
However, it is not known whether Depardieu, who’s used to riding his scooter around Paris, sometimes after having a couple of glasses of wine, would be able to stomach the strict Islamic code of behavior imposed by Kadyrov on Chechnya.
-- Eugen Tomiuc, with contributions from Antoine Blua