On my way by foot chez Depardieu in the Anjou region of north- central France, I couldn’t help but feel invigorated by the crisp, biting dawn of this bucolic region at this time of year. Arriving at his house just as the morning sun flushed the ancient rough-cast walls with an intense golden light, I pounded on the door for what must have been twenty minutes.
Finally, there appeared before me the undisputed master of the modern French cinema in the guise of a bear who had just ended its hibernation but had not yet expelled his mucous plug. “Merde, savez-vous l’heure qu’il est, monsieur?” [Shit! Do you know what time it is, mister?] he said to me with a certain twinkle in his eye that told me he was only joking. “Vous dormiez, pendant que d’autres souffraient?” [Were you sleeping while the others suffered?] was the splendid bit of badinage I offered in reply as I pushed open the door and entered the parlour.
In the far corner of the room was an obvious favourite chair with the reading lamp still burning from the night before. Around the foot of the chair were several mostly empty wine bottles bearing the Chateau Tigné label (Gerard’s own) with about an inch of wine left in one of them. I took a swig to satisfy my curiosity and said to Gerard “C’est du vin d’église?” [Is this church wine?] At that point it was clear that Gerard wasn’t feeling well because he didn’t laugh at all. As I plopped into the chair, Gerard gazed at me with a certain incredulity, probably because of my wide renown as an interviewer and the fact that I was actually in his house. Not otherwise a believer in telepathy, I was sure I could hear him thinking : “Is this really happening to me?” His expression was priceless. Gerard slowly sat down in the chair opposite never taking his intense gallic eyes off of me for even a fraction of a second.
Feeling somewhat self-conscious, I said to him, “Depuis combien d’années demeurez-vous ici?” [How many years have you lived here?] He rolled his eyes skyward (confusedly) and said “Would you prefer to use English?” I said that indeed I would. He proceeded to answer my question: “I do not zhink zhat I am living here, really” he said almost hesitantly, “Because I do not zhink zhat I am living in a place where zhere is no sleep and no privacy.” “Hah-hah!” I said, “Very Good. Touché! Très bon! Très, très, très, très bon!” He rolled his eyes again. Emboldened by our obvious rapport, I fired my next question: “So, now, Gerard, What about that Cyrano?” His eyes widened to the point where I could see the whites atop the irises and he bolted for the telephone and dialed a couple of digits and stopped, evidently having forgotten the rest of the number. “Bonjour, Sergeant …” said Gerard. I looked hastily about the room but didn’t see the dog he was obviously speaking to.
Before Gerard could continue, his charming wife Elisabeth entered the room looking as if she had just come from the blender. Gerard hung up the phone. I looked at Elisabeth and then at Gerard. I gave him a sly wink. Then another. “Qui est là?” [Who is it?] inquired Mrs. Depardieu. “Je ne sais pas” [I don’t know] replied Gerard trying to tease me, “Un connard qui se prend pour un journaliste.” [Some bastard who takes himself for a journalist.] Needless to say, I was no more good, literally rolling on the floor in stitches. “Mais, nous ne l’attendions pas” [But we weren’t expecting him.] said Elisabeth. “Alors, Elisabeth, faut pas enculer les mouches!” [Now, Elisabeth, you mustn’t fuck flies.] answered Gerard. “Mais je vais bientôt lui casser la gueule!” [But I’m about to beat the shit out of him!]
Tears poured down my face as I guffawed across the floor. “Elisabeth, comment dit-on ‘casser la gueule à quelqu’un’ en anglais?” [Elisabeth, how do you say ‘beat the shit out of somebody’ in english?] continued Gerard. “Ce n’est pas à moi qu’il faut le demander!” [Don’t ask me!] replied Elisabeth, “Il faut encore téléphoner à Hieronymus .” [You’ll have to call Hieronymus again.] Then, to show me that he was truly France’s comic genius, Gerard took hold of my lapel, pulled me to his face, and said “Get out!” He tossed me into the rue, screamed “Va te faire foutre!” [Use your imagination.] at me, and slammed the door. I lay in the road howling for at least fifteen minutes. “What a card!” I said to myself, wondering why he was taking so long to come back for me. Another joke! What a guy! After finally quieting down, I looked to my watch to see it was 6:45 am. Having done a full day’s work, I hastened to the nearest tavern.