DEPARDIEU BIOGRAPHY SHOWS HOW THE ACTOR OVERCAME POVERTY

The entertainment-trade publication Variety recently had a Page 1 story about Gerard Depardieu, with the headline, ``Le Cinema Est Moi, Dit Girard.'' The actor, who has starred in at least 90 films, has come to symbolize France's movie industry. His English-language films have included ``Green Card,'' ``Christopher Columbus: 1492,'' which received mixed reviews in the United States.

A new biography, ``Depardieu,'' written and published in French by Paul Chutkow, shows how the actor overcame neglect, poverty, and a humiliating speech impediment to become one of France's greatest film stars.

A bearlike man with boundless energy, Depardieu emerges in the biography as a survivor, an endearingly complex man who grabbed misfortune and crafted it into genius.

Chutkow wrote the book as a collaborative effort.

``Gerard cooperated fully, but he did not have the right of approval and he did not earn a cent,'' Chutkow said in a telephone interview. ``I had carte blanche. He never interfered and only read the manuscript once it was completed.''

The two spent hundreds of hours together at Depardieu's home outside Paris and on location.

Chutkow, a former correspondent for The Associated Press who spent 12 years in Paris, interviewed dozens of family members, close friends, film directors, fellow actors. He presents Depardieu as multifaceted man: a gifted actor, gourmand, and vintner.

The book's publication in France in early March was a major event, despite lukewarm reviews from some critics.

Depardieu's childhood was grim. His father, Dede, was a heavy-drinking ironworker who was often unemployed. Lilette, his mother, dreamed about traveling to exotic places and blamed Gerard, her third child, for clipping her wings.

Depardieu was happy that the book rectified misconceptions about his childhood.

``I was really a solitary child ... but I never said I was unhappy,'' he was quoted as saying in the weekly Evenement du Jeudi. ``Just the opposite, I was very lucky to be born into a poor, illiterate and medievallike family because there were no taboos. I was born free, free to invent who I wanted to be.''

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