Saturday February 2, 2013
After Depardieu, Asterix creator dreams of tax exile
ANGOULEME, France: First the French actors who play Asterix and Obelix went into exile. And now the Gallic warriors' ageing creator says he wishes he were younger so he too could escape France's enthusiastic tax collectors.
At 85, Albert Uderzo is fit enough to oversee the publication of the 35th comic book in the series about the indomitable French fighters who cunningly hold out against Roman invaders.
But he regrets that he is too old to move abroad.
Uderzo thoroughly approves of the highly controversial move by Gerard Depardieu, who regularly plays the rotund Obelix in film versions, to declare himself a tax exile in Belgium and then, in a bizarre twist, take Russian nationality.
"It was horrible to attack him with such virulence and it is disgusting to see how Depardieu was insulted by the prime minister for having decided to go into exile in Belgium," Uderzo told AFP.
"I told him straight away he was right to leave and that if I were 20 years younger, I might have done the same," he said Thursday at the International Comics Festival in Angouleme, southwestern France, which this year has a special exhibition on his work.
Depardieu, the star of "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Green Card", threatened to give up French citizenship after Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault branded him "pathetic" for announcing plans to become a tax exile.
That move was to avoid paying a 75 percent tax on incomes above one million euros ($1.3 million) that the French Socialist government wants to introduce.
Depardieu was the latest in a line of French celebrities seeking to escape a slew of new levies announced by President Francois Hollande since he came to power last May.
Christian Clavier, who has regularly played the diminutive Asterix in movie versions, also left France last year. He headed to London, although he insists it was not for tax reasons but for fear of attacks against him for his ties to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Uderzo has written the stories and done the drawing for the Asterix comic books since their co-creator Rene Goscinny died in 1977.
He has refused to give details about the upcoming edition, which is due out in October, but it will be the first to be both written and drawn by outsiders, with French writer Jean-Yves Terri handling the story and the images by Didier Conrad.
"The two authors were born in 1959, like Asterix, so that's a good sign," Uderzo joked.
"I briefly had the preposterous idea of stopping Asterix, like Herge envisaged for Tintin after his death. Then I pulled myself together, reminding myself that readers are the priority. I decided that the adventure would continue with others."
The adventures of Asterix began in 1959 in the comic Pilote, and quickly became a best-selling series.
Initially, Goscinny wrote the humorous, pun-filled texts and Uderzo designed and drew Asterix and his sidekick Obelix engaged in their constant fist-fights, drunken arguments, heroic rescues and romantic interludes.
Uderzo carried on alone after Goscinny's death, and the series spawned an industry of spin-off movies, theme parks and toys. The books have been translated into 107 languages, with more than 350 million copies sold. - AFP