Embarrassed Depardieu Apologizes for Airplane Incontinence, Blames Prostate Gland

One of the more “urgent” stories of the week was the incident of French film star Gerard Depardieu urinating in the cabin of a plane. The airplane was sitting on a runway and Mr. Depardieu, 62, was told he would not be able to go to the restroom until the plane took off. Initial reports of the incident said that an irate Depardieu then urinated on the floor of the plane, as if this was a protest against the flight attendant’s unreasonableness. The plane was then delayed two hours so that the cleanup crew could deal with the situation. The story then took on a life of its own, most notably when Anderson Cooper underwent a gigglefest meltdown while giving a pun-filled report on the incident:

Now, many are questioning the original reports and fellow actor Edouard Baer, who was traveling with Depardieu is setting the record straight. He claims that Depardieu was completely sober, and that he suffers from prostate problems. When he was told by flight attendants that he could not go to the restroom, he stood up to urinate into a bottle his friend had given him. Unfortunately, the urine overflowed onto the floor of the cabin. Baer told Europe1 radio:

“It’s just that the bottle was too small. It’s true that it overflowed… He was embarrassed. He wanted to clean it up…It was very humiliating and awkward for him. He obviously made a big scene (saying) ‘I pissed on myself’.”

It is likely that Gerard Depardieu suffers from the same medical condition that over 5 million older men also have- Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH).

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that weighs about one ounce and lies just below the bladder and in front of a man’s rectum. Its function is to add fluid to support and nourish sperm, because together, prostate fluid plus sperm equals semen. The urethra, the tube through which urine flows from the bladder to the penis, passes through the prostate.

A man’s prostate goes through two main growth periods during his life. The first phase occurs early in puberty, when the prostate doubles in size. The second phase of growth begins around age twenty-five and continues during most of a man’s life. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) often occurs during the second growth phase and affects about 50 percent of men between the ages of fifty-one and sixty and up to 90 percent of men older than eighty.

As the prostate enlarges, the gland presses against the urethra and pinches it. The bladder wall becomes thicker. Eventually, the bladder may weaken and lose its ability to empty completely, leaving some urine in the bladder. The narrowing of the urethra and urinary retention— the inability to empty the bladder completely—cause many of the problems associated with BPH. Lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) suggestive of BPH may include

  • urinary frequency—urination eight or more times a day
  • urinary urgency—the inability to delay urination
  • trouble starting a urine stream
  • a weak or an interrupted urine stream
  • dribbling at the end of urination
  • nocturia—frequent urination during periods of sleep
  • urinary retention
  • urinary incontinence—the accidental loss of urine

Unfortunately, these symptoms are not specific for BPH. Prostate cancer and infections of the prostate can have the same symptoms, so it is important to seek the advice of a medical professional to determine which is the cause of the symptoms.


Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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