Gerard Depardieu: French actor to face trial over sexual assault allegations

Gerard Depardieu will face a criminal trial later this year over the alleged sexual assaults of two women on a movie set in 2021, French prosecutors say.

French media had reported that the 75-year-old actor - who has denied any wrongdoing - had been questioned by police in Paris on Monday.

Depardieu's lawyer Christian Saint-Palais later declined to comment to reporters other than to say that the actor was no longer in custody.

The Paris public prosecutor's office said in a statement that the actor has been "summoned to appear before the criminal court" after the questioning.

It said the trial will start in October "for sexual assaults likely to have been committed in September 2021" against "two victims, on the set of the film The Green Shutters".

In February, the French actor faced a complaint of sexual assault from a female movie decorator alleging he groped her during filming in 2021, kneading her waist, stomach, and breasts during filming for the movie Les Volets Verts, a title that translates to The Green Shutters in English.

Meanwhile, last year, a French site published claims from 13 other women who worked with Depardieu and said they had experienced inappropriate advances, groping and gestures.

Depardieu was handed preliminary rape and sexual assault charges in 2020 following allegations from actress Charlotte Arnould.

In that case, the investigating judge completed his investigation on 17 April and transferred the file to the Paris public prosecutor's office "to review and determine next steps in the proceeding," according to the prosecutor's office.

In October last year, Depardieu wrote an open letter to Le Figaro - one of France's best-known publications - to deny the claims of rape and sexual assault made against him.

In it, he said he had "never, ever abused a woman" and that "hurting a woman would be like kicking my own mother in the stomach".

He has previously denied all the claims against him through a lawyer.

A global ambassador for French film, Depardieu is among France's most famous stars, known for films such as Cyrano de Bergerac and Jean de Florette - as well as the Hollywood hits Green Card and The Man In The Iron Mask.

He has appeared in 200 films over six decades and is among a few French actors who have made a name for themselves in Hollywood.

This latest episode involving Depardieu comes as French cinema is rocked by a belated #MeToo awakening, following the 2017 global movement.

In February, French actress Judith Godreche made an impassioned speech during the Cesar Awards - which is France's version of the Oscars - for the French film industry to "face the truth" on sexual violence and physical abuse.