French film star Gerard Depardieu failed to show up in court to face drink driving charges on Tuesday because he was preparing to play disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a film, his lawyer said.
The no-show means the case will turn into a full trial - guaranteeing yet another day in the spotlight for the garrulous actor currently caught up in a scandal over his tax status.
It could also lead to the rotund, 64-year-old star of “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Asterix and Obelix” getting a tougher sentence if convicted - in theory up to two years in prison.
“Despite wanting to be there and meet the judges and in no way to escape justice, Gerard Depardieu absolutely could not be present,” his lawyer Eric de Caumont told a throng of reporters outside the Paris courtroom.
He said his client was in Montenegro preparing to play Strauss-Kahn, who was seen as the next Socialist president of France before a U.S. sex scandal bought down his career last year.
Depardieu is accused of crashing his scooter in Paris with more than three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. No one else was injured in the accident.
Former French screen goddess Brigitte Bardot on Friday threatened to follow Gerard Depardieu in asking for a Russian passport, in protest not at tax hikes, but at the treatment of two circus elephants.
The animals, named Baby and Nepal and owned by a touring circus, are thought to be carrying tuberculosis and were ordered to be put down by a court in Lyon, southern France, on Friday as a precautionary measure.
Bardot’s threat comes a day after fellow actor Depardieu caused a storm in France by becoming a Russian citizen in protest at high tax rates proposed by the Socialist government, which he accuses of penalising success.
“If those in power are cowardly and impudent enough to kill the elephants… then I have decided I will ask for Russian nationality to get out of this country which has become nothing more than an animal cemetery,” Bardot said in a statement.
Owners Cirque Pinder also said on Friday they would appeal to save the elephants, which first tested positive for tuberculosis in 2010 but have since been kept in a zoo in Lyon away from the general public.