February 3, 2009 / 12:52 PM / 10 years ago

Asterix creator depressed by family dispute

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - Julius Caesar tried in vain to break the spirit of Asterix and his fellow Gaulish villagers, but a bitter family dispute has left the indomitable warrior’s creator increasingly depressed.

A man reads a copy of "Asterix and Latraviata," the 31st in the Asterix series, in a file photo. REUTERS/File

“These moments have been painful. I’ve spent sleepless nights. It was horrible,” Albert Uderzo told Le Figaro of a dispute in which his own daughter accuses him of selling out the legacy of the hero he made with partner Rene Goscinny in 1959.

The dispute broke into the open last month when Uderzo’s daughter Sylvie published an open letter in the Le Monde daily attacking her 81 year-old father’s decision to sell his stake in the Asterix publishing company to the giant Hachette group.

“It’s as if the gates of the Gaulish village had been thrown open to the Roman Empire,” she wrote.

In reply, Albert Uderzo said his daughter had been “blinded” by her husband, Bernard Boyer de Choisy, who was formerly in charge of public relations for Albert Rene, the publishers of the hugely successful Asterix series.

“I think Sylvie is no longer in charge of her own decisions. We don’t speak anymore and I’m extremely sad about it,” he said.

Sylvie Uderzo, who holds 40 percent in Albert Rene, said her open letter was motivated by concern for the series’ quality.

But behind the dispute are also the lucrative rights to one of the most successful series of “Bandes dessinees” ever with 33 comic strip albums selling 325 million copies around the world in 107 languages and dialects.

There is also a merchandising franchise, a theme park outside Paris and eight movies.

“At one point there was even some question of having me put under judicial supervision as someone incapable of managing their affairs,” Uderzo said.

“I replied that for the moment I was still there and they should have the decency to wait for my death.”

For his part, Bernard Boyer de Choisy, who was sacked from Albert Rene in 1997, accused Albert Uderzo’s lawyer Yves Sicard of pulling the strings and stirring up family resentment.

“Albert goes forward or backwards according to what his advisers suggest,” he told Le Figaro. “In reality, Sicard is manipulating everything. He is my personal enemy.”

Uderzo said he had filed a civil suit against his son-in-law which is due to be judged on Thursday and said he would offer the plates of his Asterix drawings to the French national library to ensure they were not sold off after his death.

But he said that after initially considering that Asterix would die with him, he now believed his hero would live on.

“Asterix is stronger than me. He will survive me.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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