Gerard Depardieu faces probe over alleged rapes, sex assaults: judicial source

Last orders: Gerard Depardieu is selling up one of his restaurants in the French capital

French star Gerard Depardieu "absolutely denies any attack, any rape", his lawyer said on Thursday after a judicial source told AFP he was facing a probe over alleged "rapes and sexual assaults".

The source said the Paris public prosecutor's office had opened a preliminary inquiry into allegations against Depardieu following a complaint lodged on Monday in southern Aix-en-Provence.

"I regret the public nature of this process which poses a major prejudice to Gerard Depardieu, whose innocence I am convinced will be recognised," his lawyer Herve Termime added, calling for restraint on all sides.

Depardieu, 69, is France's biggest international star and has made more than 180 films.

A controversial and larger-than-life character, he became the very face of French cinema due to roles in films such as such as "Cyrano de Bergerac" for which won best actor at the Cannes film festival and was nominated for an Oscar.

He made his name in the 1974 film "Going Places" after which he enjoyed a meteoric rise, demonstrating talent and allure in wide-ranging roles in classics, dramas and comedies alike.

In 2013 Depardieu sparked a huge outcry by leaving France and taking Russian nationality in protest at a proposed tax hike on the rich in his homeland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin treated him to a dinner to present him with his new citizenship and Depardieu was subsequently full of praise in an interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.