French star Deneuve defends Depardieu over Belgium home

Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu, 1 Oct 12 The pair have been acting together for years

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French actress Catherine Deneuve has defended fellow movie star Gerard Depardieu over his move to Belgium.

In an open letter Deneuve voiced fury that another actor, Philippe Torreton, had attacked Depardieu for leaving France "with a load of dosh".

Deneuve said "he [Depardieu] is a great actor and you're just expressing your resentment". She starred with Depardieu in several classic French films.

Depardieu has criticised the Socialist government for its new 75% wealth tax.

Next year, the top rate of income tax in France is due to become 75% on earnings above 1m euros (£813,000; $1.3m). Belgium's highest tax rate is currently 50%.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has condemned Depardieu's decision as "shabby".

In her letter, headlined "Monsieur Torreton..." in the left-wing daily Liberation, Catherine Deneuve accused the actor of "pettiness".

"To take aim at his physique! His talent! This 'mess' you speak of - what right do you have, what democratic motive do you claim as grounds for your dirty condemnation?"

Depardieu, 63, announced earlier this month that he was moving just over the French border to to the small Belgian town of Nechin.

Deneuve starred with him in some landmarks of French cinema, including The Last Metro and, more recently, the Franco-Belgian comedy, Potiche.

On Wednesday another star of French cinema, Brigitte Bardot, also defended Depardieu, saying he was the victim of "unfair vilification".

"Even if he is a fan of bullfighting, that does not prevent him being an exceptional actor who represents France with a unique fame and popularity," said Bardot, a campaigner for animal rights.

On Thursday the row spread to Russia where President Vladimir Putin addressed the actor's move abroad during his marathon annual news conference.

Mr Putin told a big live audience: "I'm sure the French authorities did not want to offend Mr Depardieu. But if he'd like to have a Russian passport, consider it settled."

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