Dec. 17 - French actor Gerard Depardieu hits back at the country's prime minister after being criticised for saying he will renounce his French citizenship and move to Belgium for tax reasons. Joel Flynn reports.
Au revoir, Gerard. We hardly knew you. Gerard Depardieu, the French actor known most famously for his part in "Cyrano de Bergerac" is off to Belgium. And it's not for the weather. He says he's leaving France because the government is punishing success, by over-taxing the rich. President Francois Hollande is planning on introducing a 75% tax on incomes over 1 million euros. Depardieu has written an open letter to French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. That was in response to Ayrault earlier calling the popular actor's behaviour "pathetic." Depardieu said in the letter: "Pathetic, you said pathetic? How pathetic is that?" "I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned." French taxpayers are being asked to contribute more to reduce the country's bloated national debt. But Labour Minister Michel Sapin said the issue came down to a simple principle. SOUNDBITE: French Labour Minister, Michel Sapin, saying (French): "He's earning a lot of money, and those who earn a lot of money should pay a lot of taxes. What could be more normal than that?" Depardieu's Parisian mansion is now up for sale for a reported $65 million. He's also giving up his French nationality, handing back his passport. But despite his popularity, not all Parisians agree with his move. SOUNDBITE: Unidentified Parisian resident, saying (French): "It's weak. We are the weakest, we earn the smallest salaries. Why should we pay for the richest? He's wrong. It's irresponsible to flee your country." SOUNDBITE: Unidentified Parisian resident, saying (French): "He's an actor. He profited from the French. And now he's making money, he leaves when the French need him. It's disgusting." SOUNDBITE: Unidentified Parisian resident, saying (French): "We're squashed and the government does not realise it's squashing people with taxes. So it's normal that the rich go. If I was rich I would do it." The actor's argument with the government over the top rate of tax typifies the opposing arguments in France over economic policy. As popularity ratings for President Hollande's government hit new lows, Depardieu's may not be the last high profile departure.