Where is François-Marie Banier now? Netflix’s The Billionai…


Five years after he was convicted of “abuse of weakness” and accused of manipulating L’Oreal billionaire Liliane Bettencourt into giving him millions, François-Marie Banier had hoped to once again be seen as an artist.

“When I say your name, I want to say ‘photographer’,” TV5Monde’s Patrick Simonin says in the opening lines of his French language show L’Invité, which aired in September 2020. “It’s good to see you again on television talking about your two exhibitions when until now your name has been associated with the Bettencourt affair. Is it behind you?”

François-Marie Banier went on TV five years after his conviction to talk about the Bettencourt affair – and his latest photography exhibitions. Photo: L’Invité/YouTube

“It is not behind me, it is in me,” Banier replied jovially, “because she is an extraordinary woman and I’m very fortunate to have lived 40 years of friendship with her. The rest you will judge when the story becomes clearer.”

And become clearer it has, thanks to new Netflix documentary The Billionaire, the Butler, and the Boyfriend that’s got the world talking about the saga once more. So what happened to Banier after the trial, and has he succeeded in shaking off his reputation as a crook?

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François-Marie Banier managed to avoid prison

François-Marie Banier was accused of taking advantage of L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt’s (centre) mental state to extract millions in art, cash and favours from her. Photo: AP

Despite being handed a three-year prison sentence for his crimes and ordered to repay the equivalent of US$173 million, according to The New York Times, Banier’s legal team appealed. A year later, an appeal court in Bordeaux gave the celebrity photographer a four-year suspended sentence and a fine of 375,000 euros (US$422,500), per WWD.

He is Lily Rose Depp’s godfather

A photo of Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis and their two young children, Lily Rose and Jack, taken by François-Marie Banier. Photo: @VanessaParadisFans/Facebook
Despite his modest background, Banier mingled with everyone from Salvador Dalí to Mick Jagger and Princess Caroline of Monaco through his work. But among his more surprising friends are Vanessa Paradis and Johnny Depp – who have stuck by him. Paradis wrote a letter of support for Banier during his trial, calling him “her friend” and saying he was a man “turned towards others”. Even Paradis’ mother Corinne testified in court.
Lily-Rose Depp, now all grown up, poses for photographers at the photo call for The Idol premiere in Cannes in May. Photo: Invision/AP
According to a biography of Paradis’, Banier invited both her and Depp to his 50th birthday party before they had met, and she was devastated to learn that the Edward Scissorhands actor had cancelled at the last minute. Luckily, when they did finally manage to meet, they hit it off – and Banier’s small role in their relationship saw him named godfather to their first child, Lily Rose Depp.

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He created a photography collection celebrating gay culture

François-Marie Banier’s book Battlefields celebrates the gay community in several Western capital cities. Photo: @SteidlVerlag/X

In 2020, Banier created a book called Battlefields. The photographer, who is himself gay, compiled hundreds of photos from Pride marches in London, New York, Brussels Paris and Rome between 1994 and 2018. “I follow and paint as usual with my camera, almost always in black and white,” Banier says in the book’s introduction.

He lives in Paris and is still exhibiting his works globally

As hinted at by TV5Monde’s interviewer in Banier’s first public appearance since the trial, the Bettencourt affair has not stopped him from showing his work. Since the trial ended, Banier’s photography has featured in exhibitions in Doha, London, New York and France, including intimate and striking photographs he has taken of Qatari Sheikh Saoud al Thani and legendary fashion designer and friend Yves Saint Laurent.

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He’s about to release a memoir

François-Marie Banier says he was “very fortunate to have lived 40 years of friendship” with Liliane Bettencourt (pictured) – is he about to tell all? Photo: EPA-EFE
Is Banier finally about to unleash his side of the story? According to his bio on the Miguel Abreu Gallery website, the 76-year-old is set to release the first volume of his memoirs. Amazon has the book – titled Dialogues Interrompus – set for release at the end of January 2024. He joins a slew of other celebrities and public figures who have released memoirs over the past few years.

The name of the memoir gives a clue to Banier’s feelings about the last 10 years. Translated, it means Interrupted Dialogues

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