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Belgian villagers set for Depardieu's garden party

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Belgian villagers set for Depardieu's garden party
Depardieu to hold housewarming party in Belgium. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP RMC1036/flickr
09:57 CEST+02:00
A year after heading into tax exile in Belgium, French actor Gérard Depardieu has decided to invite his new neighbours round for a housewarming party. The larger than life star is to host 200 guests, including local villagers, for a giant BBQ at his new home in Néchin.

Depardieu's popularity might have nose-dived in his native France but just over the border in Belgium, where he now lives, he seems eager to make some new friends.

So much so that the actor, renowned for his ravenous appetite and love of a bottle or two of wine, has decided to hold a housewarming party for neighbours and local officials in the town of Néchin, which stands just one kilometre over the French border. 

Preparations are well underway, although the date of the party has been kept under wraps.

Depardieu has opted, perhaps unsurprisingly, for a barbecue which will no doubt please his local butcher Marc Vens. "It's been a year (since Deaprdieu's move] so we know each other quite well,"  Vens, who has one of the golden tickets to the party, told BFM TV. 

On the menu will be barbecued ribs and a suckling pig, Vens told local media. 

Among the 200 special guests will be around 60 of Depardieu's best buddies, 120 local officials from the area and 20 lucky neighbours from the mainly working class village, who after being initially wary of the star buying a house in their 'hood are now happy to welcome him.

Depardieu's own rosé wine is even on sale in local shops and was described by one resient as "excellent". 

Other villagers found solace in the bump in property prices thanks to lauded actor's choice of location for his new nesting place.

"I moved here well before Gérard, and I can tell you that since then, my house has gone up in value," a villager told La Voix du Nord on condition of anonymity.

Only a few weeks ago, Depardieu returned to his native France but showed no regret about taking up residence in Belgium or indeed becoming a citizen in Russia after the French socialist government's proposal to impose a 75-percent tax rate on annual incomes over €1 million ($1.3 million).

In an interview with AFP, the 64-year-old film star denied he quit France to escape the taxman, insisting his reasons for leaving had more to do with his frustration at "the way governments use the money they take."

On Friday Depardieu has insisted that the controversy over his quitting France was "a big misunderstanding" and that he still loves his country.

"I never left! I refuse to be shut in by borders, that's completely different," Depardieu told the Figaro Magazine in an interview published on Friday. "I am a free man. I feel at home everywhere in Europe."

"This whole story is a big misunderstanding," he said, adding: "I love France as much as ever. It's my country."

His scrutinized decision to fraternize with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chechnya's strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov made headlines around the globe.

Whether either of them will be chomping entrecôte at the garden party remains unclear.

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