Hard work, all play for Depardieu

Somewhere among the romanticism and ingeniousness of Cyrano de Bergerac, the passion and daring of Danton and the stubbornness and persistence of Christopher Columbus, Gerard Depardieu is to be found. Firmly established as a European cinema star for the past 30 years, the 52-year-old French actor’s position is unshakeable. A show-business star, a cinema idol or a great actor? Whatever the verdict, Gerard Depardieu remains invincible and inimitable. On Friday and Saturday Depardieu will appear at Epidaurus in Igor Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex. This will be staged together with Stravinsky’s dance-melodrama Persephone, an impressive and lavish spectacle with a large orchestra and subtitles in Greek. Directed by Jean-Paul Scarpitta, the production came to Greece on the invitation of the Municipality of Asklepieion and the Attica Cultural Society. Gerard Depardieu, who performs the role of the narrator alongside Isabella Rosselini as Persephone, spoke to Kathimerini. What motivated you to take part in the performance of one of Stravinsky’s works? First of all, the director, Jean-Paul Scarpitta, with whom I have previously collaborated on a work by Stravinsky. In The Soldier’s Tale, which we put on at the Saint Elysee theater, I found the role of the narrator extremely interesting, as it was based on C.F. Ramuz’s fantastic text, in the same way that Oedipus Rex is based on Cocteau’s unique and highly individual text. This is a composite production, with an orchestra, choir and musicians, and I am quite anxious to see how it will work at Epidaurus, a gigantic and magnificent theater. It is not only a great honor for me to appear there, but I am keem to see how all these elements will jell. Do you feel that you are taking on a great risk by appearing at Epidaurus or are you completely comfortable with it? No, no. I feel completely comfortable. When you perform in a theater like Epidaurus, you must adapt to the space and concentrate on communicating with the audience. I don’t think we can talk about real risk in places like Epidaurus. It is a place which brings us together and helps us think. Were there any questions in your mind while preparing for Oedipus? No. The myth of Oedipus is incomparable. What haunts and affects me is poetry and, of course, mythology. I like mythology to be a part of my thoughts, of my everyday life. In thrall to history If we are to assume that an actor’s film roles are a reflection of their personality, then any attempt to sketch your portrait on the basis of your cinema appearances would result in a picture of complete confusion! You can travel through time through different roles. History, the history of humanity, enchants me. I find the great personalities that you can encounter on this journey, such as Danton, Napoleon, Balzac, Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas, as well as Racine and Sophocles, extremely interesting. You Greeks have a wealth of history and literature on which humanity is based. If the Greek language hadn’t existed, then I don’t know how we would express ourselves. Would you say that your best work has been on screen? My best work has been in life itself. The screen is a very small part of it. The screen doesn’t produce anything long-lasting. What lasts are the important texts, the great writers, the great composers and painters. Actors come and go. They are, thankfully, ephemeral. What stays from it all is the amazing adventure. What are your memories of Francois Truffaut and Marco Ferreri, two completely different directors who both played an important role in your career? With Ferreri (The Last Woman) you made your first nude appearance in the cinema, one of the most daring in European cinema at the time. In the 1970s, the women’s liberation movement was in full swing. Women had always been kept on the margins of film and theater. I believed that it was very important to be involved with a subject so powerful and mythical as an understanding of what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman. With Truffaut, things were quite different. He had a more novel-like approach. He was like Balzac. He knew how to talk. You are considered a superstar of European cinema. Any comments? You know these categorizations. I like recognition, but I don’t do anything just for the recognition. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my journey. Has the audience become more demanding over time? Yes, of course. And they are right to be demanding, especially with great artists. Your many activities include over 100 films, business activities (you are a producer and distributor of the films of John Cassavetes in France), wine-producer… You give the impression of being an incredibly active person, who is always rushing to make up for lost time. I do things which I am passionate about. Such as being the distributor for the films of Cassavetes, whom I admire greatly. I champion the films I like but which don’t often get screened. In America, interest is mainly focused upon commercial productions and they forget the great directors. Doing this doesn’t cost me anything, because it gives me great pleasure. I don’t do it for the money or the recognition, but simply because I want to share some things which are important. The truth Three films this year, two stage plays… Why do you work so hard? Because I like to work. I throw myself into my work. My profession fulfills me. If I felt as though I was working, then I would stop, it would bother me. You once said that at 20 we have many desires which hide the truth, but after 40, only the real and fragile truth remains. Do you have anything to add at 50? After the age of 50 we begin to appreciate life much more and are much less absorbed in ourselves. We pay far more attention to others. Igor Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Persephone are on at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus on Friday and Saturday. Tickets from the Hellenic Festival box office, 4 Stadiou, in the Spyrou Miliou Arcade, tel 322.1459, Asklipieion Municipality tel 0753-23544, Select Tours, tel 321.9182. Gerard Depardieu He was born on December 27, 1948 in Chateauroux, France. His first cinema appearance was in 1965 in the film Le Beatnik et le Minet. He emerged as a new force in French art cinema with Going Places, directed by Bernard Blier (1974). Among the key films in his career are: Vincent, François, Paul and the Others, 1900 by Bernardo Bertolucci and Cyrano de Bergerac by Jean-Paul Rappeneau, for which he received an Oscar nomination. He has also played in more mainstream films, such as Asterix et Obelix Contre Cesar and 102 Dalmatians. Depardieu has also appeared in 30 stage plays.

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