Gérard Depardieu Accused of Punching the ‘King of Paparazzi’

Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters
Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

French film star Gérard Depardieu allegedly punched a photographer dubbed “the king of paparazzi” three times in the face during an altercation in Rome on Tuesday.

The incident took place at Harry’s Bar on the city’s Via Veneto. The 75-year-old actor allegedly struck Rino Barillari after the photographer was repeatedly asked to stop taking pictures, according to a journalist who witnessed the scuffle.

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Gianni Riotta, an Italian newspaper columnist who claims to have seen what unfolded at Harry’s bar, told The New York Times that Barillari was followed out of the venue by a shouting woman who had been sitting with Depardieu. The actor then reached Barillari and “hit him, hit him, hit him,” Riotta said. “There was a lot of blood.”

Piero Lepore, the owner of Harry’s Bar, separately told CNN that Barillari was taken by ambulance to a hospital. “We are used to celebrities and we are used to paparazzi—they can’t survive without each other,” he said. But we are no longer used to these fights.” The bar was brought to international fame in Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita, which also featured a pushy photographer character named Paparazzo, giving rise to the term “paparazzi.”

Delphine Meillet, a lawyer for Magda Vavrusova—the woman with Depardieu—told the Adnkronos news agency that Barillari had “violently pushed” Vavrusova, whom Meillet described as Depardieu’s partner. Meillet said Vavrusova was also hospitalized after the incident and had filed a complaint with police, saying: “The photographer pushed me, touching my torso and chest with his arm. At this moment in which I present the complaint I still feel pain, it was very violent.”

Meillet also told the agency that Depardieu was reacting to the “violence of the situation” when he sought to intervene “between the paparazzi and his partner,” at which point the actor “fell and slipped” on the photographer. “After everything that had happened, the photographer persisted in deluging them with photos,” Meillet said.

Riotta, the columnist, similarly told the Times that Depardieu got into a vehicle after the incident but Barillari “jumped in front of the car and kept on shooting.” He said the car swerved to avoid the photographer who, after snapping the license plate, dropped to the ground.

Speaking to Italian news station Sky TG24, Barillari said he’d been photographing “Depardieu with a gorgeous girl” in the moments before the scrap, according to The Telegraph. “She spotted me and chucked some cubes of ice,” the photographer said. “That’s pretty normal. But I never expected what happened next.”

Barillari claims Depardieu approached him saying “merde”—the French word for “shit.” “I smiled and stepped back a bit,” Barillari continued. “But he came towards me. Mamma mia, he’s really big! He punched me three times in the face.” The photographer told the Italian media he reported Depardieu to the police.

The alleged attack is the latest scandal involving Depardieu, who has faced multiple allegations of sexual assault in recent years. He is scheduled to stand trial in October over alleged sexual assaults of two women on the set of a 2021 film—accusations he denies.

The claims of wrongdoing have sparked a major re-evaluation of the reputation of a prolific and once revered actor who, only last year, was described by French President Emmanuel Macron as a man who makes France “proud.” (Macron has since tempered his apparent support.)

Depardieu’s battle to defend his reputation is also playing out alongside a wider “MeToo”-style reckoning in the country’s film industry over the treatment of women. The ongoing Cannes Film Festival has also been gripped by speculation surrounding a purported secret list of 10 prominent actors and directors who have allegedly abused women which could soon be made public.

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