Busy shooting DSK film, Depardieu fails to turn up in court

Busy shooting a film about disgraced ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Gerard Depardieu failed to turn up at a Paris hearing Friday to face a drink-driving charge, the second time he has skipped court.

The actor, who has sparked controversy recently by moving to Belgium and taking Russian citizenship amid a tax row with French authorities, had also failed to appear at a January hearing due to previous engagements on the film.

"He wanted to be present, but he couldn't, he really regrets it," his lawyer, Eric de Caumont, told the court Friday, adding Depardieu was currently in New York to shoot the movie by director Abel Ferrara, in which he plays Strauss-Kahn.

The trial was put off until May 24, but could go forward in Depardieu's absence. Caumont said the actor would show up for the next hearing "if it suits his work schedule".

The 64-year-old Depardieu was detained in Paris in November after falling off his scooter, which he had been driving while more than three times over the legal alcohol limit.

He risks being fined 4,500 euros ($5,800), jailed for up to two years and given penalty points.

The portly star has been involved in much controversy since he announced in November that he was moving abroad due to a 75 percent tax rate on incomes over one million euros that President Francois Hollande's government wanted to impose.

The tax plan was eventually struck down as unconstitutional but Hollande's government has vowed to present a new proposal that would see it charged to employers instead of individuals.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault branded Depardieu's decision to move as "pathetic", and the actor struck back with a series of rants against the government, including an interview with Belgian media last month in which he said France had become a "sad" country.

"France is sad, and I think the French are fed up. ... It seems that the government doesn't know how to do its job," Depardieu told Belgian television channel Notele in mid-March.

Hailed as one of the greatest actors of his generation, Depardieu has starred in films including "Green Card", "Cyrano de Bergerac", "Jean de Florette" and the "Asterix & Obelix" series. He also owns a number of businesses including vineyards.

But in recent years he has become as famed for his erratic behaviour as for his acting talents.

In August, he was cautioned after punching a motorist who had forced him to swerve on his scooter, and in 2011 he generated global headlines when he tried to urinate in a bottle aboard a plane as it prepared to take off from Paris for Dublin.

After an offer from President Vladimir Putin, Depardieu also recently took up Russian citizenship.

The decision sparked controversy, as has as his self-avowed friendships with Putin and the strongman leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.