French actress Catherine Deneuve has written an open letter defending her fellow countryman Gerard Depardieu over his move to neighbouring Belgium.

The fiery actor attracted criticism from French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault after he moved across the border, sparking rumours he was fleeing new tax hikes on the wealthy.

Depardieu now lives in the Belgian village of Nechin, just minutes from France, and Ayrault branded him "pathetic" for leaving his homeland - but Deneuve has now reached out to offer support to her former Potiche co-star.

In an open letter to another actor, Philippe Torreton, who has also criticised Depardieu's move, the actress writes, "He is a great actor and you're just expressing your resentment... To take aim at his physique! His talent! This 'mess' you speak of - what right do you have, what democratic motive do you claim as grounds for your dirty condemnation?"

Earlier this week (beg17Dec12), legendary French screen star Brigitte Bardot also defended Depardieu, saying, "Even if he is a fan of bullfighting, that does not prevent him being an exceptional actor who represents France with a unique fame and popularity."

Deneuve's letter was published in French newspaper Liberation.