The Nightmare That Robert De Niro Endured During The Shooting Of Ronin

Abhishek Srivastava - 73 weeks ago

The unwanted incident transpired with Robert De Niro when he was in France during the winter of 1997-98 shooting for John Frankenheimer’s Ronin, a heist film filled with jaw dropping car chases. De Niro was not the original choice of the director as De Niro’s fee for the film exceeded the entire budget of the film by almost 20 per cent. But the idea that his global star appeal will add to the reach of the film ensured that he was brought on board by the producers. After the shooting of the film got over, so happy was De Niro with the entire experience that he even gifted his director a custom made Christmas chair and a video camera coupled with a personal note.

(John Frankenheimer explaining a scene to French actor Jean Reno and Robert De Niro during the shooting of Ronin in 1997)

With a month still to go into the completion of the film, some eight Parisian police officers visited the actor at his suite at Hotel Bristol and later escorted him to the office of judge Frederic N’Guyen. De Niro was questioned for more than five hours in connection with his involvement in a high end prostitution ring. The man at the helm was Jean Pierre Bourgeois, a soft core photographer who was then arrested and put behind bars for operating a call girl racket. Jean Pierre was charged with the usage of underage girls and his circle included oil billionaires from the Middle East, shady middleman, an Arab prince and a well-known Hollywood star. Author Shawn Levy has described the entire event in great detail in his book De Niro - A Life.  

(An image of Charmaine Sinclair)

Parisian police found De Niro’s name in Jean Pierre’s address book. Later it was discovered that at least three women from the ring claimed to have met the actor in past and one of them Charmaine Sinclair, a porn star, even informed the investigators that the two were lovers. When Sinclair’s version was conveyed to De Niro he did not deny the story and informed the judge that he had met Jean Pierre through Polish tennis player Wojtek Fibak. De Niro further informed the judge that Jean Pierre had told him that he knew lots of beautiful girls and could introduce him to girls that featured in Lui and Playboy magazine. De Niro was honest enough to narrate the entire chain of events to the judge. He also informed that he met Charmaine Sinclair through Jean Pierre and when he received a call from the man that he was with her at St. Tropez, De Niro immediately took a flight from Paris to Nice and then through a helicopter reached St. Tropez. According to the actor’s confession to the judge, “I had sex with Charmaine in the villa and I left in the afternoon by helicopter and then took a plane to Paris. There had been no transaction of money.” When De Niro was further probed about his involvement with other girls of the ring, he only mentioned that it might have been possible that he might have shaken hands with them.

(The news piece that appeared in National Enquirer)

De Niro was allowed to leave from the judge’s office and was not arrested. De Niro was so shaken with the entire media spotlight the episode brought along and the paparazzi camped outside his hotel that he had to call few gossip columnists based out of NY issuing his calrification and denying his involvement. The previous year he was honoured with the prestigious French Legion of Honour by the French government, and in his closed circle the actor declared that he will return the medal and would never work in or visit France again after the shooting of Ronin is complete. Former French justice minister, Georges Kiejman was brought it as De Niro’s attorney and through a press conference declared that his client was a ripe target for the attention of women. He was also angry at the judge and referred to him as ‘another Kenneth Starr’. During the press conference Kiejman kept circling around his replies and eventually filed a complaint accusing the judge of ‘violation of secrecy in an investigation.’

(The news also appeared on BBC online network)

As per a report published in the BBC, the case involved close to 90 young women, including 14 minors with a network that spread to countries like Switzerland, Portugal, Morocco, UK and the US. Bourgeois allegedly ran his network in connivance with former Swedish model Annika Brumark. 

In the end the prosecutors found out that De Niro was only guilty of having sex with a woman but the entire episode took a toll on him. Few days later, the actor was scheduled to read the poetry of Pope John Paul II translated into English but in the aftermath of the scandal the invitation was withdrawn. Father Giuseppe Moscati from the Vatican even commented that the image they had of the actor was far from truth. Later, De Niro even sued the tabloid France Soir for violation of privacy and was eventually compensated for it. Though the producers were scared of the implication the scandal could have on the release of the film but in the following months the entire matter had disappeared from newspapers. When Ronin released in theatres, it performed poorly at the box office. The film managed to grab only $42 million as opposed to a budget of around $55 million.


Robert De Niro / Jean Pierre Bourgeois / Georges Kiejm / Charmaine Sinclair / Ronin / John Frankenheimer / Paris / Frances Soir / Prostitution

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