Paris: Sophie Marceau, one of France's best-loved actors, said in an interview published Thursday that film icon Gerard Depardieu, accused of rape, was "rude and inappropriate" when they worked together, and targeted women with low-level jobs on set, not the stars.
Marceau, whose career started in France and internationally with "La Boum" (The Party) in 1980 when she was 13, has since starred in dozens of films and directed a few more.
The actor gained added international fame for her role in the 1995 film Braveheart and for playing a villain in the 1999 James Bond action movie The World Is Not Enough.
She worked with Depardieu on the set of "Police" in 1985, a film noir involving a jaded policeman and a mysterious woman.
Depardieu's attitude was "rude and inappropriate", she told Thursday's edition of Paris Match weekly magazine.
"He didn't target great actresses, he went more for low-level assistants," she said.
"Vulgarity and provocation have always been his tradecraft," Marceau said.
"Everybody loved him for it", Marceau observed, but said she publicly denounced his behaviour which she found "unbearable", already at the time.
But "many people turned on me, trying to make it look like I was being a nuisance", she said.
Depardieu, who has made more than 200 films and television series, was charged with rape in 2020 and has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women.
The actor, who turned 75 on Wednesday, has faced fresh scrutiny over sexually explicit comments including one about a young girl riding a horse during a 2018 trip to North Korea that were broadcast for the first time in a documentary on national television this month.
The footage caused condemnation from feminist groups and across the political spectrum.
But President Emmanuel Macron came to Depardieu's defence last week, claiming the actor was the target of "a manhunt".
Macron said he felt "huge admiration" for Depardieu, whom he called "an immense actor".
The remarks caused a fresh round of outrage.
Generation.s Feministe, a feminist collective, said they were "an insult" to all women who had suffered sexual violence.
The president's remarks were "not just scandalous but also dangerous", added Maelle Noir of the Nous Toutes association.
Former president Francois Hollande said he was "not proud of Gerard Depardieu" after seeing the footage.
On Monday, nearly 60 actors and artists denounced what they said was "the lynching" of Depardieu in an open letter in conservative daily Le Figaro.
The letter, signed by British actor Charlotte Rampling, former French first lady and singer Carla Bruni, and Depardieu's former partner, actor Carole Bouquet, claims the star is the victim of a "torrent of hatred" and "probably the greatest of all actors".
'It took 50 years'
Depardieu himself praised the letter - most signatories are his contemporaries, many his friends - calling it "beautiful".
But Laurent Boyet, founder of Les Papillons (Butterflies), a group that fights violence against children, said the letter was "indecent".
On Wednesday, Isabelle Carre - a French actor with dozens of films to her name - denounced a culture in France in which even young girls are sexualised.
In an op-ed piece in Elle magazine she said that she had been the object of unwanted sexual attention since she was 11. "All I wanted was to grow up in peace," she said.
In a reference to Depardieu, Carre said: "Isn't it astounding that it took 50 years to point out to an actor that his behaviour towards female assistants, dressers and co-actors is not acceptable?"
Depardieu has created a number of other scandals over the years, including by public brawling, drunk driving and urinating in the cabin of a commercial aircraft.
In 2012, he moved to Belgium to save on taxes, a decision the French prime minister at the time, Jean-Marc Ayrault, labelled "pathetic".
In response to the gibe, Depardieu took Russian nationality and posted pictures of himself and President Vladimir Putin.
But last year, he denounced what he said were Putin's "crazy, unacceptable excesses" in the Ukraine war.
A Belgian municipality recently stripped Depardieu of the title of honorary citizen, several days after the Canadian province of Quebec revoked its top honour over his "scandalous" comments about women.
There have been demonstrations against Depardieu in France, and the Paris wax museum, Musee Grevin, has removed Depardieu's statue from its collection.