Depardieu finds the English language to his liking

October 14, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

The French are convinced they have the best wine, the most sagacious philosophers and the finest skiing.

But their most famous actor, Gerard Depardieu, prefers English to his native tongue.

"You have two beautiful languages for song," he says, in half French and half English, with an accommodating interpreter at his side. "One is Italian and the other is English. And [the words are better] to play also. Because you have a lot of different words and you are more accurate than the French language. I like to play in English. Sometimes I don't understand what I say, but it makes me put myself into a big interrogation, which is great for the characters."

Characterizations don't seem to be a problem for the burly Gallic actor, who looks more like a longshoreman than someone who occasionally sports feathers and lace and embroidered velvet.

Mr. Depardieu is starring in the second of two films about Christopher Columbus. The first one -- which featured Marlon Brando in a small role as the Great Inquisitor -- disappeared faster than a politician's smile.

The second, "1492: Conquest of Paradise," is a far nobler attempt. Not a very successful one, but admirable in the effort.

Mr. Depardieu looks right for the part of the dedicated visionary, but under director Ridley Scott's ponderous hand, Columbus seems like a guy who really has lost his sense of direction.

The star of such movies as "Danton," "Cyrano de Bergerac," and his first American hit, "Green Card," Mr. Depardieu has made more than 80 movies in the last 27 years.

But being a "movie star" is not his dream. "To be a movie star is a bit sad," he says. To have a big hit movie, "that's luck," he adds. "I've had a lot of flops."

The actor says establishing good relationships with the cast and crew is crucial to his work, especially in a film like "1492" which carried enormous logistic problems as well as personnel challenges.

"When you have 300 naked Indians waiting for an actor who has lines to say and he can't say them -- I try to do my best for everybody."

Mr. Scott, who directed "Blade Runner," "Thelma & Louise" and "Alien," says working with Mr. Depardieu is the best experience he has had, except for Geena Davis (whom he directed in "Thelma & Louise").

"Geena's a very intuitive person -- and actor as well; and hides a little bit her smartness, and never lets it hang out there like a sledge hammer.

"Gerard is very much the same," Mr. Scott says. "He's a self-taught individual. In fact, I believe he was virtually illiterate when he was in his teens and just started the whole process of self-education. He's had no formal education, certainly not in the process of acting."

Mr. Scott says that Mr. Depardieu believes in simply "doing it."

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