Gérard Depardieu was born on December 27, 1948, in Châteauroux, France. He left home at age 15 to study acting in Paris and made his film debut in 1965. He began appearing in full-length films in the 1970s. By the '80s, Depardieu had become one of the most popular actors in France, appreciated for his portrayal of gentle yet masculine characters. He also made several American films, including Green Card.
Early Life and Career
Born in Chateauroux, France, on December 27, 1948, actor Gérard Depardieu has appeared in such films as Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and Life of Pi (2012). He is the one of five children born to a metal worker and a homemaker. Growing up poor, Depardieu had limited schooling. He ran away from home in his early teens and supported himself through odd jobs and some criminal acts.
A teenaged Depardieu eventually made his way to Paris, where he began studying acting at the Theatre National Populaire. Depardieu landed roles in theatrical productions and on television in the early days of his career. With his tall, hulking build, he was often cast as a bad guy or a thug.
Depardieu had a career breakthrough with Bertrand Blier's Going Places (1974). This popular dramatic comedy opened the door to many other film opportunities. Two years later, he appeared in Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900 (1976) alongside Robert De Niro. Depardieu worked with French screen legend Catherine Deneuve on The Last Metro (1980). He earned raves for his work on this wartime drama directed and co-written by famed filmmaker Francois Truffant. Depardieu also picked up his first César Award—the French equivalent of an Academy Award—for best actor, for his performance in the film.
While he was already a leading actor in Europe, Depardieu had his first big hit with American moviegoers in 1990 with the historic romance Cyrano de Bergerac. He received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of the film's title character. Bergerac is a writer who fears he will be rejected by his true love, Roxane, because of his unattractive nose. He writes her beautiful love poems, but he has another man deliver these missives to her.
That same year, Depardieu starred opposite Andie MacDowell in the contemporary comedy Green Card. He soon turned paternal in the 1991 French comedy Mon père, ce héros. Three years later, Depardieu reprised this role in the English language version, My Father the Hero, in which Katherine Heigl played his daughter.
Continuing to work in European and American films, Depardieu played both dramatic and comedic roles with equal aplomb. He enjoyed success with such films as Germinal (1993) and Colonel Chabert in his native France. Depardieu also received a warm reception for his work in such English-language productions as Kenneth Branaugh's Hamlet (1996) and The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), in which he co-starred with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Despite a brief retirement in 2005, Depardieu remains an in-demand actor today, boasting a career that spans nearly five decades. In 2012, he had a supporting role in the critically acclaimed drama Life of Pi. Around this same time, he was cast in the starring role of disgraced French political figure Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the drama Welcome to New York. Jacqueline Bisset plays his wife in the project.
Depardieu has made headlines for some of his off-screen antics. He has been in several vehicular accidents, including a 1998 motorcycle crash. In 2011, Depardieu got into trouble on an Air France flight for being intoxicated and allegedly urinating in the aisle of the plane. He was arrested for driving a scooter in France while intoxicated. In protest of France's high tax rate, Depardieu lobbied Russian leader Vladimir Putin for citizenship in his country in 2012. His request was granted the following year.
With his first wife, Elisabeth Guignot, Depardieu had two children, Guillaume and Julie. Guillaume died in 2008, at the age of 37. Depardieu's marriage to Guignot lasted from 1970 to 1996. The pair separated in 1992—the same year that Depardieu had a child, a daughter named Roxane, with actress Karine Sylla. He also has a son, Jean, from another relationship.
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