Gerard Depardieu is my friend. It has been so for over twenty-five years. And he will always be my friend. No matter what he says, or what he does. This is my idea of friendship: irreversible, it cannot be bargained over.
We talked about everything. We worked together, when he wanted to play, so beautifully, the leading role in one of my plays, that I did not even dare to have him read, because he had not been on stage for more than fifteen years.
Gerard is excessiveness itself. Gerard hates boundaries, limitations and prohibitions. Just pretend that he cannot do this or that and he will have an irresistible urge to do it.
Gerard is a thousand people. He is all the roles he acted, and holds on their life. And all those that he will act. He is the many lives that he had. And that he still has. Because, being unable to live a thousand successive lives, he lives them simultaneously.
For this reason, the issue of his citizenship is nonsense: he is, of course, French, more than any other; and in a better way than most of his critics will ever be. And he will remain so, no matter what he wants; even if he attempts to flee from himself. Even if he takes another temporary Belgian, Russian, Azerbaijan or Venezuelan passport. Because it is not up to him to decide: he is a French actor. Bearing in himself the music of the French language and of no other. He would be nothing without the French cinema, therefore without the French taxpayers, who finance it largely. He is also a French farmer, entrepreneur and businessman.
But he is far more than that. A citizen of the world, free, provocative, curious about everything, hating mediocrity, therefore not standing, in particular, to be called “pathetic” because that word is the ultimate of all insults for him: pathetic refers to tiny. Not this. Not him.
And if his story is so fascinating, if he is all across the world’s media, it is because there is more to Gerard Depardieu: he is the name given today to the French malaise. And even more broadly, that of the human condition.
It is revealing of a nation uncomfortable with itself: in France, the rich are unhappy, because they are vilified, singled out. Same for the poor, because they are unemployed or at risk of unemployment. All are tempted to leave and they admire him so they can dare to make the leap. He is the one everyone would dream to be: multiple, elusive, refusing any hierarchy. Gavroche and Jean Valjean at the same time.
He is also, like most human beings, incapable of being satisfied with just one life to live. Trying dramatically to live many lives at the same time, real and virtual.
Gerard Depardieu is also the name we can give to the tragedy of the human species, unable to escape its charnel envelope. And who, despite all its subterfuges, despite its personal entertainment and that of others, knows that it remains subject to mortality.
And like almost all those who have this kind of lucidity, he hates his own mortality. And he accelerates what he fears, so not to have to wait for it.
This is the most important thing to learn from Gerard Depardieu. And this is what we must be wary of the most: that the fascination of a nation for a man, that represents it so well, does not push it toward self-destruction.