Actor appears everywhere but in French court

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Actor appears everywhere but in French court

PARIS - In the past three days, Gerard Depardieu met with Vladimir Putin to get Russian citizenship, got a prime seat at soccer’s biggest annual gala in Switzerland and dashed off to Montenegro to eye some real estate.

But in all this whirlwind travel, he didn’t manage to show up at a Paris court Tuesday to face a hearing on drunken driving charges because, his lawyer said, he had a vital meeting abroad for an upcoming film. The 64-year-old French actor was in Montenegro meeting with the prime minister, it turns out.

The lawyer insisted that Depardieu, who has threatened to renounce his French citizenship and turn in his passport and social security card, wasn’t trying to dodge justice.

Still, the hearing on a relatively minor charge was elevated to criminal court.

“I’m not escaping court or justice, I’m a Frenchman and will return to France,’’ Depardieu said in Montenegro. “I’m not a criminal. I skidded on my scooter, I fell asleep. Even if I eat a salad with too much vinegar, I already have too much alcohol in my blood.’’

Depardieu’s battles with the French government and French justice system began at nearly the same time. In November, he fell off his scooter in Paris and was charged with drunken driving. The following week, the mayor of a Belgian border town announced that the man whose roles in 150 films have all but defined French drama had set up house there to avoid French taxes.

The prime minister’s new epithet for Depardieu - “pathetic’’ - set the actor off again. In an open letter last month, Depardieu said the country he loved was no longer home .

“I’m leaving because you believe that success, creativity, in fact, differences should be punished,’’ he wrote. “I won’t cast a stone at [people] who have cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes or too much alcohol or those who fall asleep on their scooter: I am one of them, as you dear media outlets like so much to repeat.’’

On Saturday, he received a Russian passport directly from Putin; on Monday he appeared at the FIFA awards ceremony in Zurich. And on Tuesday he was in Montenegro, apparently looking at property and meeting with the prime minister.

“I’m not a collector of passports, I’m a citizen of Europe and I hope to be a citizen of the world,’’ he said, as he stood with Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and showed his Russian passport. “I owe nothing to the French state.’’

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