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Actor Gérard Depardieu faces another sexual assault complaint as #MeToo echoes through French cinema

FILE - Actor Gerard Depardieu poses for photographers during a photo call for the film Valley of Love, at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, on May 22, 2015. A lawyer has filed another legal complaint of sexual assault against Gérard Depardieu, on behalf of a movie decorator who alleges the French actor groped her during filming in 2021. In the complaint to the Paris prosecutor’s office, the alleged victim accuses Depardieu of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexist insults, her Paris lawyer, Carine Durrieu Diebolt, said Monday Feb 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

FILE - Actor Gerard Depardieu poses for photographers during a photo call for the film Valley of Love, at the 68th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, on May 22, 2015. A lawyer has filed another legal complaint of sexual assault against Gérard Depardieu, on behalf of a movie decorator who alleges the French actor groped her during filming in 2021. In the complaint to the Paris prosecutor’s office, the alleged victim accuses Depardieu of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexist insults, her Paris lawyer, Carine Durrieu Diebolt, said Monday Feb 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)

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PARIS (AP) — French actor Gérard Depardieu faces another complaint of sexual assault, this time from a movie decorator who alleges he groped her during filming in 2021.

In the complaint to the Paris prosecutor’s office, the 53-year-old decorator alleges that Depardieu grabbed her and kneaded her waist, stomach and breasts during filming for “Les Volets verts,” or “The Green Shutters,” lawyer Carine Durrieu Diebolt said Monday. Other people intervened to stop him, the lawyer added.

Two lawyers for the 75-year-old Depardieu did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment, and their offices said they weren’t available to talk by phone.

The latest accusations came after French actor Judith Godrèche called on France’s film industry to “face the truth” on sexual violence and physical abuse during a live broadcast Friday of the Cesar Awards ceremony, France’s version of the Oscars.

Godrèche, who recently accused two film directors of rape and sexual abuse when she was a teenager, condemned French cinema for its silence over abuses in the industry.

“We can decide that men accused of rape no longer rule the (French) cinema,” Godrèche said to a hushed audience. “Let’s not embody heroines on screen only to find ourselves hiding in the woods in real life.”

Depardieu has also been accused by more than a dozen other women of harassing, groping or sexually assaulting them. He was handed preliminary rape and sexual assault charges in 2020 following allegations from actor Charlotte Arnould.

Depardieu denies wrongdoing. In an open letter in October, he said: “I have never, ever abused a woman.”

Durrieu Diebolt said that the statement was traumatic for her client and led her to file suit against him.

Depardieu was long seen as a national icon in France. He has been a global ambassador for French film and enjoyed international fame with several roles in Hollywood.

Despite the allegations against him, his fame has won Depardieu words of praise from the highest echelons of the French government.

“He makes France proud,” President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with TV channel France 5 that was broadcast Dec. 20, days after a documentary aired on French television in which 16 women accused Depardieu of harassing, groping or sexually assaulting them.

In January, Macron tried to walk back his remarks in Depardieu’s defense, saying that he should have mentioned his unequivocal support for victims of abuse.

“I haven’t said enough how important it is for women who are victims of abuse to speak out, and how crucial this fight is to me,” Macron said, while standing by his defense of Depardieu’s presumed innocence.

French cultural minister Rachida Dati on Friday criticized the country’s cinema for “collectively turning a blind eye for decades” to sexual violence.

“This should be the beginning of profound soul-searching for French cinema,” Dati said in an interview with a online magazine, The French Film. “There is no impunity in the name of art.”

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Surk reported from Nice, France.