July 19, 2017

Gérard Depard-who? Indiegogo campaign hopes to bring French actor’s memoir to English readers


It’s a well-known fact that only three percent of books written outside of the English language end up translated and on US bookshelves. Of that three percent, just a small margin are works of non-fiction. Of that number, presumably none are about the life of Gérard Depardieu. Contra Mundum Press hopes to change that.

In an interview with Yaël Hirsch for Toute La Culture, a French-language culture site, Contra Mundum’s publisher Rainer J. Hanshe discusses why he acquired Depardieu’s memoir Innocent, and his hopes in crowd-funding the translation rights for the book.

“…considering Depardieu’s world notoriety, the book should attract a great number of readers. Beyond that, since it concerns friendship, cinema, politics, and religion, and makes incisive observations about numerous pressing socio-political ‘issues’ (faith, fundamentalism, refugees, etc.), I believe its appeal is broad, and that’s why I wanted to publish it and why I think it a truly necessary book for the divisive and explosive times that we’re living in. Due to Depardieu’s stature, the book can have a greater impact than if a lesser well known person were to write a similar book.”

According to Hanshe, the award-winning French actor’s autobiography is destined to be a “vital, if not necessary” book in our modern times, one that could quite possibly change the way we confront religion, spirituality, and ourselves. The “proto-memoir” was first published in France by Editions du Cherche Midi in November 2015, and has sold over 100,000 copies in the author’s native country.

“From his early days in the theater and his friendships with Jean Gabin and others to his rise in the cinema, this light, vibrant, but searching book offers us an intimate entry into the thinking process of one of cinema’s most mercurial and impassioned actors. Depardieu also touches upon controversial topics such as his relationship with Putin and issues that have led to skirmishes with the press and public.”

While Depardieu has long been a well-respected actor—since his first major film appearance, opposite Catherine Deneuve in Françoise Truffaut’s 1980 drama The Last Metro, he’s won several awards, including a 1990 Golden Globe for Peter Weir’s Green Card—his recent global transgressions have tarnished that reputation. Known as a brash and comical yet serious actor, he’s spoken against the tax raises on the wealthy in France, going so far as renouncing his French passport. He’s also commended Russian President Vladimir Putin for his treatment of critics like the members of Pussy Riot, becoming a Russian citizen in the process.

Although what first comes to my mind when I think of Depardieu are his roles in Green Card and My Father, the Hero—bizarrely, staples of my childhood—the “peeing on a plane” incident isn’t too far behind. As the New York Post reported at the time, on a 2011 trip to Ireland, Depardieu refused to follow flight attendants’ orders to stay seated during take-off, and decided to relieve himself in in public. The plane was delayed for over an hour while workers cleaned up his mess. Chris Rozvar of New York magazine had this to say: “When a puppy goes wee wee on your carpet, you take ten minutes to clean it up. But when Gérard Depardieu does it, you damn well take your time and luxuriate in it.”

If this interview with French TV program “Télématin” gives any indication of what’s in the book, Depardieu enlightens readers on his past loves and discretions. The actor also talks of the spiritual influence of women in his life… that is until they try to change him.

The Indiegogo fund promises various Contra Mundum paraphernalia and one-of-a-kind art reproductions for investors. The campaign currently stands at four percent of their $10,500 goal. Hey… at least they made it past three percent.



Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.