After some 2,500 years of calling Transalpine Gaul home, the French national hero Obelix is skipping town. The actor who plays the brutish superhuman—Gerard Depardieu—is moving to Belgium, which does not impose a tax on personal wealth.
“This is a tragedy,” rues independent French publisher and Obelix fan Philippe Larminie. “Gerard Depardieu is Obelix, just as Charlton Heston will always be Moses.”
French millionaires like LVMH luxury goods boss Bernard Arnault have made similar moves to avoid a new 75% tax on income above €1 million a year and a sharp rise in capital gains taxes has caused a kerfuffle akin to Heston telling the burning bush that he’s heading back to Egypt.
“Pathetic,” is how Socialist French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault described Obelix actor Depardieu’s money-saving move to the Belgian frontier village Nechin. “Those who are seeking exile abroad are not those who are scared of becoming poor. They’re leaving because they want to get even richer.”
It would seem that not even living French legends like Depardieu, who also played Napoleon Bonaparte, Cyrano de Bergerac, the Count of Monte Cristo and Pierre le Pelt in “102 Dalmatians,” are willing to subsidize French President Francois Hollande’s costly and divisive experiments in socialism.
Yet the French left is not amused. Socialist MP Yann Galut says Depardieu should be “stripped of his nationality.” Consumption Minister Benoit Hamon publicly branded the actor “anti-patriotic” and charged him with giving France “the finger.” The Socialist Party’s darling tabloid, Liberation, labeled Depardieu a “drunken, obese petit-bourgeois reactionary.”
Felix Marquardt, president of the Paris-based public relations firm Marquardt & Marquardt, says Depardieu is the tip of a giant moving iceberg. “I’m more worried about the others we aren’t hearing about, the ones leaving because there’s no future in France,” Marquardt says. “With youth unemployment nearing 30%, Hollande needs to worry about everyone fleeing. People are voting with their feet.”