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French judge reopens rape inquiry against Depardieu

Gerard Depardieu's accuser, an actor in her 20s who cannot be identified for legal reasons, says he assaulted and raped her during two separate tryouts in August 2018.

FILE: French actor Gerard Depardieu. Picture: AFP

PARIS - Actor Gerard Depardieu will face a new rape investigation in France after prosecutors reopened a case into allegations he assaulted a woman during casting tryouts at his Paris mansion, sources close to the case told AFP on Wednesday.

Depardieu's accuser, an actor in her 20s who cannot be identified for legal reasons, says he assaulted and raped her during two separate tryouts in August 2018.

The 71-year-old star of the Asterix and Obelix films has already been questioned by police over the claims and saw the case dropped in June 2019, when prosecutors decided they lacked sufficient evidence to pursue a trial.

That prompted his accuser to file a new complaint that included civil proceedings, which under French law almost always leads to a case being examined anew by an investigating magistrate.

A judicial source said a new judge was appointed in August to re-investigate.

"My client has taken note of the new inquiry and the nomination of a new judge," the woman's lawyer, Elodie Tuaillon-Hibon, told AFP.

"She has renewed her confidence in the justice system, and remains at its disposition for the next steps in the inquiry," she said.

Depardieu's lawyer, Herve Temime, said he had not been informed of the new investigation, but called it a "non-event, as it is an automatic decision" to appoint an investigating magistrate.

Depardieu has denied the allegations, which came in the wake of the #MeToo movement sparked by the rape and assault claims against disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

The actor, who has made more than 180 films, is one of the best known faces in French cinema through films such as Cyrano de Bergerac, for which he was nominated for an Oscar.

He has starred alongside actresses including Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Adjani, Sophia Loren, Fanny Ardant and Kate Winslet, and played the superhuman Gaul in the Asterix and Obelix films.

Known for his larger-than-life exploits and a passion for wine and food - he has owned several restaurants and vineyards - Depardieu has often made headlines over the course of his career.

In 2013, he prompted outrage at home after taking Russian citizenship in a protest against France's proposed tax hike on the ultra-wealthy.

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