* Garrulous actor already in spotlight over tax row
* Drink driving case will now go to full trial
* Could face up to two years in prison
By Alexandria Sage
PARIS, Jan 8 (Reuters) - French film star Gerard Depardieu
failed to show up in court to face drink driving charges on
Tuesday because he was preparing to play disgraced former IMF
chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in a film, his lawyer said.
The no-show means the case will turn into a full trial -
guaranteeing yet another day in the spotlight for the garrulous
actor currently caught up in a scandal over his tax status.
It could also lead to the rotund, 64-year-old star of
"Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Asterix and Obelix" getting a tougher
sentence if convicted - in theory up to two years in prison.
"Despite wanting to be there and meet the judges and in no
way to escape justice, Gerard Depardieu absolutely could not be
present," his lawyer Eric de Caumont told a throng of reporters
outside the Paris courtroom.
He said his client was in Montenegro preparing to play
Strauss-Kahn, who was seen as the next Socialist president of
France before a U.S. sex scandal bought down his career last
Depardieu is accused of crashing his scooter in Paris with
more than three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood.
No one else was injured in the accident.
The actor did not have to attend the court hearing. But he
could have faced a much lighter sentence, perhaps even a small
fine, if he had attended Tuesday's preparatory hearing and
admitted his guilt.
As part of a wider crackdown on drink driving, French
magistrates have imposed increasingly tough sentences in cases
that go to full trial.
Depardieu hit the headlines last month after he bought a
house over the border in Belgium, spurring accusations he was
trying to dodge a proposed new tax on millionaires.
Last week, he accepted a Russian passport, provoking even
fiercer charges that he had abandoned his homeland.
Depardieu on Monday denied he was leaving France for tax
reasons, insisting that he remained French.
A few months before the scooter incident, a car driver
accused Depardieu of assault and battery during an altercation
in Paris. Last year, the actor outraged passengers on an Air
France flight by urinating into a bottle in the aisle.
(Additional Reporting by Thierry Leveque and Arnd Wiegmann in
Zurich. Writing by Alexandria Sage and Leigh Thomas; Editing by
Mark John and Andrew Heavens)