You need to go now.
You need to pack your bags and go to Belye Stolby, a small town southeast of Moscow, and sit with Gérard Depardieu. Or drive another eight hours east from Moscow if Depardieu accepts the offer made to him (according to a close friend of his) of a cottage in the poor rural region of Moldovia, “next to a pond so he could sit with a fishing rod.” Go and spend some Tuesdays with Gérard.
This saddened rabelaisian heap, this machine for the conversion of gamay into urine has abandoned his native France. But let me make clear that your Depardieu book will contain no snark. Anderson Cooper can exploit Gérard’s prostate to reveal the lighter side of his own emo-journalism, but you won’t mock the great man so gingerly. Who are we to call Depardieu names when he has such a rare beauty: some features tiny and polite (the deep-set brown eyes, the narrow mouth in the quotations of his dimples) and some wildly outsized. His defining feature, that tragicomic nose, has actually grown with age and truly, in the manner of an old oak, has begun splitting down the middle into two separate bulbs. It’s blatantly testicular.
The book you will write, an update of Mitch Albom’s self-help phenomenon with fewer Auden quotes and more night-terrors, is not some flash-in-the-pan coverage of his fiscal self-exile. We already know that he skipped over the border to a country called Belgium last December to avoid French President François Hollande’s proposed “taxe sur la fortune” — a 75 percent marginal tax rate on income above $1.3 million. Many have weighed in on Depardieu’s departure, but aside from getting dressed up in an embroidered folk tunic and jetting around with Putin, the man has kept his composure.
If you will not go back and watch his early movies as proof of depth, which you should, if only to supplant the memories of his portrayals of stereotypical French buffoons in Hollywood films of the 1990s…
…then look at his spoken record. Depardieu has been famous for 40 years and drunk for at least a dozen and has never gone slurring à la Mel Gibson or Kramer. He called Bernard Henri-Levy an “intellectual moped,” and thinks Juliette Binoche is overrated. That’s a statistically insignificant amount of scandalous bullshit from a man who admits to drinking three bottles of wine on a good day, five on a bad one. If you gave Diane Sawyer five bottles of wine on a bad day, she’d probably trip out of her Upper East Side townhouse holding a letter opener going “Wheress Merl Streep? I’ma kill’er.”
So go, go minister to him, this Pavorotti of French cinema. What pearls of wisdom await you? Consider this interview, taped a year ago. (Sorry, it’s in French; your lakeside chats will be, too. FYI, “Putain, v’là un beau brochet” means he’s got a fish and you should fetch some scissors.) Much like the frail Morrie, Depardieu was desperately ill during this interview, a deep, prehistoric wheeze interrupting his words. He said to the interviewer, dreamily, “I usually know just about where I am, but here I don’t really know.” The interviewer, alert and literal, replied, “You’re in Geneva.” And Depardieu, still on his illness and lostness, offered, “but maybe it’s interesting.”
He’s waiting for you.