French Actor Granted Russian Citizenship To Flee 'Supertax'

French movie legend Gerard Depardieu moved to Belgium last year to avoid paying France' new 75 percent tax on the wealthy. On Thursday, the Kremlin announced that President Putin signed a decree making Depardieu a citizen of Russia, where taxes are also relatively low.

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You might remember actor Gerard Depardieu's role in the movie "Green Card." His character married a woman just to attain U.S. citizenship. Well, Depardieu is French. And these days he is fleeing his home country in real France, in real life to avoid a 75 percent super tax on millionaires. Before Christmas, he stirred outrage by moving to Belgium. And now, as NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, he has an offer from Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Just when the French thought the Depardieu affair had died down, it came roaring back to life with a cold blast of air from Russia. The Kremlin announced that Vladimir Putin had signed a special decree granting Depardieu citizenship. As it turns out, that isn't so far fetched.

VLADIMIR FEDEROVSKI: You know, Depardieu is a great star in Russia. He had a lot of movies and the Russians love Depardieu.

BEARDSLEY: That's Vladimir Federovski, a Russian writer who lives in Paris. Federovski says Russia has a flat 13 percent income tax rate. While the Oscar nominee hasn't said whether he'll accept the Russian offer, in this advertisement for a Russian bank, Depardieu says I love Russia and Russia loves me.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

GERARD DEPARDIEU: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: The giant, bon vivant actor has starred in more than 150 films in the last four decades. Christophe de Voogd is a political analyst at Sciences Po University.

CHRISTOPHE DE VOOGD: Depardieu is, of course, first, a major French star, but also he's kind of symbol because the guy comes from a very low-class family. And he's a kind of example of self-made man, which is not very common in France.

BEARDSLEY: De Voogd says the French are divided by the Depardieu affair because they also have an egalitarian streak.

VOOGD: At the same time, many people are saying, well, the rich can pay, the rich must pay.

BEARDSLEY: Perhaps the actor will reconcile with his government. The wealth tax was struck down as unconstitutional this week, and the Elysee Palace confirmed that Depardieu called President Hollande on New Year's Day. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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