When thirty-seven-year old actor Guillaume Depardieu died on Monday of pneumonia in a Paris hospital, he had yet to escape the shadow of his iconic father, as even the headlines—what few headlines there were—demonstrated. Depardieu fils, as a younger man, led something of a dissolute celebrity child’s life and, famously, publicly clashed with his father. But the Son of Gerard was a fine actor in his own right and, ideally, 2008 should have been the year he finally caught the attention of a larger audience with his magnetic performance last winter in Jacques Rivette’s The Duchess of Langeais (read Nathan Lee’s review for the Voice from February).
In that film, Depardieu plays the taciturn General Montriveau, who has returned to Paris after Napoleon’s failed campaign and a subsequent near-fatal expedition through Africa that has left him with a pronounced limp. The actor himself had had one of his legs amputated in 2003 because of a (motorcycle accident-related) staph infection that wouldn’t go away; and when Depardieu’s Montriveau clomps bitterly across high society’s parquet floors in The Duchess of Langeais, you know he means business. What a shame we’ll never hear Depardieu’s distinctive thud again.—Benjamin Strong