Jacob Brookman Headshot

Who Has More Clout, Politicians or Actors?

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AFP

Whether in France, the UK or Hollywood, top actors and politicians have much in common. They are both performers by trade who are put under intense public scrutiny. Their careers require a huge amount of guts and stamina, and can disappear into thin air overnight for seemingly minor offenses.

But if Nick Clegg urinated in a bottle on a plane, it'd be tough to get back in the game.

When a leading actor comes out in favor of a particular cause, is it fair that we often give them more credit than elected politicians? MPs work day and night to understand their constituents' needs and, as the Leveson inquiry revealed, are often subjected to enormous pressure from every conceivable angle.

The stink over French President François Hollande's 75 percent tax hike for the super rich is getting toxic. With Vladimir Putin's gift of Russian citizenship to iconic actor, Gérard Depardieu, a domestic scandal has become a diplomatic incident.

Choosing to leave France to protect earnings is one thing, but defecting to Russia is quite another.

Depardieu is a fine actor who appeals to audiences for his foibles. The inadequacies of character he can convey on screen make him compelling, and we do not make high moral demands of such a man. So being branded "a pathetic loser" by Jean-Marc Ayrault, France's prime minister displays a disparity between the values we bestow.

Politicians are supposed to have a kevlar moral integrity, which ironically -- I believe -- is why a lot of people mistrust them.

And the current scandal in France is a good example of this. Depardieu's initial decision to relocate to Belgium identifies these differing standards.

When the CEO of luxury goods group, LVMH, Bernard Arnault, applied for Belgian citizenship last August, he was committing himself to pariah status. "Get lost, you rich b---- " roared a prominent Left-wing daily, capturing the national mood, and crystallizing the 'us and them' mentality.

But Depardieu's probably the most recognizable French actor in the world, and thus to be essentially de-Frenchifying himself is the type of thing that can have a genuine long term effect on the national mood. It may have ramifications as to whether Hollande (and Ayrault) will secure second terms, too.

Either way, Depardieu will not be the last millionaire to go into tax exile.

I'd recommend watching his career carefully over the next year. The French film industry is one of the most heavily state subsidized in the world. As a director, I wouldn't like to pitch movie concepts including him.