Depardieu Hosts House-Warming Bash In Belgium
French star Gerard Depardieu has hosted a house-warming barbecue at his new home in Belgium, just across the border from his native France.
The 64-year-old Cyrano de Bergerac star has told journalists outside his chateau, which is surrounded by a moat, that life in the village of Nechin is "perfect".
The actor threw the party for 200 guests, including his new neighbours, in the grounds of the white-brick five-bedroomed home he bought last year.
Two days earlier the district of Estaimpuis, which includes Nechin, made its most famous resident an honorary citizen.
Local mayor Daniel Senesael said at the ceremony: "We are pleased you have made Nechin your home," adding "Estaimpuis loves you."
"When he came to set up house here," MráSenesael said, "he always told me he wanted to do something nice with the neighbours. He kept his word.
"He bought his house, the neighbours were invited ... and so I think it's great when you keep your promises ... and you can mingle with Depardieu, what more do you want?"
Depardieuásaid: "The residents greet me with smiles and 'I love yous'.
"There's no need for pretence, or to hide, or to be a star with all the bodyguards. That's why I invited them."
Around a quarter of the residents of Nechin are French and many are wealthy, attracted to the spot by Belgium's less onerous tax laws.
Depardieu stirred up controversy when he decided to take up residency across the border after the Socialist government sought to impose a 75% tax rate on annual incomes over 1m euros (ú875,000).
In January, Mr Depardieu was granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin. The move that was widely criticised, as were his friendships with Putin and Chechnya's strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
On Friday, the veteran actor said the controversy over his leaving France was "a big misunderstanding" and that he loves his country.
"I never left!" he told Figaro magazine, adding: "I am a free man. I feel at home everywhere in Europe.
"This whole story is a big misunderstanding. I love France as much as ever. It's my country."