The sexual assault complaint by actress Hélène Darras was dismissed by a French court. Depardieu is still fighting a separate rape charge and dozens of accusations of assault.
A French court has dismissed a sexual assault claim against embattled actor Gérard Depardieu, stating that the statute of limitations had passed.
The charges were filed by actress Hélène Darras last September, and are linked to an incident that allegedly took place in 2007, when Darras and Depardieu were shooting the film Disco. Darras was 26 at the time and an extra on the film.
The actress first spoke publicly about the case on a French television programme in December, saying Depardieu looked at her like a “piece of meat”.
“I had on a skin-tight dress, he grabbed me by the waist and pulled me towards him, then he moved his hand over my hips and buttocks,” she told journalists.
Darras said she didn’t speak up earlier because she feared being blacklisted from the French film industry.
The Paris prosecutor’s spokesperson told Variety that Darras “had decided to file a distinct complaint after being auditioned as a witness during the ongoing investigation stemming from the lawsuit by Charlotte Arnould” in 2018.
Depardieu has proclaimed innocence through his lawyers but has never publicly spoken about Darras’ complaint.
Flurry of accusations against Depardieu
Darras is one of 13 women who accused Depardieu of sexual misconduct in an article published by investigative news site Mediapart last April. Two more women came forward in a separate report by France Inter in July.
In the courts, Depardieu is still embroiled in an ongoing rape case, for which he was first placed under formal investigation in 2020. The case revolves around a complaint filed by French actress Charlotte Arnould, who accuses Depardieu of raping her two times in 2018.
Depardieu rejected Arnould’s accusations in an incendiary open letter published by right-leaning French newspaper Le Figaro in October, writing, “There has never been any coercion, violence or protest. (…) Never, and I mean never, have I abused a woman.”
Outrage against Depardieu grew after a documentary aired in December showing him repeatedly making obscene remarks and lewd gestures towards women during a 2018 trip to North Korea.
In it he was seen making groaning sounds and sexual comments in front of women, including a 10-year old girl. He can also be seen posing for a photo while saying he was “touching the bottom” of a North Korean interpreter by his side.
A Reckoning or a Manhunt?
The flurry of accusations and complaints against Depardieu have divided France’s insular entertainment industry – some see it as a long-overdue reckoning while others denounce it a witch hunt for one of the country’s most celebrated artists.
More than fifty celebrities expressed their support for Depardieu late last year in a letter published in Le Figaro, including director Bertrand Blier, actors Charlotte Rampling, Nathalie Baye, Carole Bouquet, Jacques Weber, Pierre Richard and Gérard Darmon, as well as singers Carla Bruni and Jacques Dutronc.
They stated that “when Depardieu is attacked in this way, it is art that is being attacked”.
In response, 150 celebrities signed a letter in left-leaning paper Libération, saying Depardieu’s status in the industry doesn’t excuse his behaviour. The text was signed by directors Monia Chokri and Thomas Jolly, comedians Anne Roumanoff and Guillaume Meurice, actresses Murielle Robin, Marilou Berry and Alexandra Lamy, and singers Pomme and Imany, among others.
“Art must never lead us to avert our gaze from the suffering of victims, whether famous or anonymous, and talent does not justify the transgression of limits and the attack on the integrity of others”.
Depardieu also found a supporter in French president Emmanuel Macron, who said that Depardieu had become the target of a “manhunt.”
“He made France, our great authors, our great characters known throughout the world (…) he makes France proud,” Macron said in a televised interview with broadcaster France 5.
Additional sources • RTL, Variety