Gérard Depardieu punches the “King of the paparazzi” outside a bar in Rome

French movie star Gérard Depardieu repeatedly punched Rino Barillari, known as the “king of the paparazzi,” on Tuesday at Harry's Bar on Via Veneto, the grand hotel and cafe-lined boulevard that decades ago was a lively hangout for paparazzi hunting celebrities, according to the photographer and a journalist who witnessed the altercation.

It may have been a scene straight out of “La Dolce Vita,” the early 1960s Federico Fellini film that introduced the character of an annoying and eccentric photographer who stalked the movie stars who filled the cast of the Cinecittà film studios when Rome it was known as “Hollywood”. on the Tiber”.

Seeing Mr. Depardieu, 75, and Mr. Barillari, 79, in Via Veneto was like “a time machine,” said Gianni Riotta, a columnist for the newspaper La Repubblica, who said he saw the attack while he was having a coffee at Harry's. Bar.

Mr Riotta said Mr Barillari had been asked several times to stop taking photographs and that when he turned to leave he was followed into the street by a screaming woman who was sitting with Mr Depardieu. The actor reached the photographer “and hit him, hit him, hit him,” Riotta recalled, speaking in Italian.

“There was a lot of blood,” he said.

Mr Riotta said he gave a statement to police when they arrived at the scene. It is not clear whether Mr Barillari, who was taken by ambulance to a central hospital, would have filed a complaint.

Mr. Depardieu's lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Delphine Meillet, lawyer for the woman who had been with Depardieu, Magda Vavrusova, said in a statement that Mr Barillari had “violently pushed her”, touching her chest with his arm. She said that when Mr Depardieu intervened, he had “fallen and slipped on” the photographer. Ms. Vavrusova was taken to hospital and planned to report Mr. Barillari, the lawyer said.

“After everything that had happened, the photographer continued to inundate them with photos,” Ms. Meillet said.

When Mr. Depardieu got into a vehicle after the altercation, Mr. Barillari “jumped in front of the car and continued shooting,” Riotta said. He swerved to avoid an imperturbable Mr. Barillari, who photographed the car's license plate. Then he fell to the ground.

The altercation has generated a new round of headlines about Mr Depardieu, who last month was ordered to stand trial on criminal charges of sexually assaulting two women while filming a 2021 film in France, l The latest in a growing number of sexual assault allegations.

After a documentary aired in France in December showed the actor making vulgar and sexist comments during a trip to North Korea in 2018, he was stripped of several international awards and a likeness of him was removed from the Musée Grévin, a museum of the waxworks of Paris.

Mr Depardieu has denied any wrongdoing.

Barillari is also no stranger to controversy. When the Italian contemporary art museum MAXXI dedicated an exhibition to the photographer's sixty-year career in 2018, it recorded 163 trips to the emergency room, 11 broken ribs, one stabbing and 76 smashed cameras, including stitches after a fight with actor Peter O. «Tool.

The age of cell phones had influenced the work of paparazzi, Barillari told an Italian newspaper at the time, adding that selfies ruin celebrities “because they never tell the truth.”

Mr Barillari could not be reached for comment on Tuesday's incident. But when he was interviewed on Rai 1, the Italian broadcaster's main channel, he recalled some of the actors he had mistreated, including Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor.

“They were ready to beat me,” he said, sporting a white bandage over one cheek. But she was younger, she said.

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