Hollywood star Gerard Depardieu has revealed he was once a gay prostitute and a petty thief who proudly robbed graves.

In his autobiography, Ca c'est fait comme (It happened like that), the 65-year-old award-winning actor confesses that his rebellious youth in Châteauroux, central France was worlds away from the lifestyle he lives as a screen icon today.

Theft and prostitution

The bad boy of French cinema claims that poverty drove him to regularly wander the streets committing crimes and he even served three weeks in prison for stealing a car.

At the height of his delinquency, Depardieu helped a man dig up newly buried bodies in the cemetery before stealing jewellery and shoes from them.

"At 20, the thug in me was alive and kicking," an extract from the tell-all reads.

"I would rip some of them off. I would beat up some bloke and leave with all his money."

After discovering that men found him attractive, he began prostituting himself to truck drivers as another means of making money.

"I've known since I was very young that I please homosexuals," he said with disarming candour. "I would ask them for money."

It wasn't until a gay theatre talent spotter paid for him to study French drama that he started to turn his life around. He skyrocketed to international fame in 1990 when he starred alongside Andie MacDowell in romantic comedy Green Card.

Unwanted child

Perhaps the ultimate shocker to come from Depardieu's autobiography, told to writer Lionel Duroy, is that his mother tried to abort him several times.

"I survived all the violence that my poor mother inflicted on herself with knitting needles and things," he recounts. "The third child that she didn't want, was me, Gérard. I survived," he says.

According to the Life of Pi star his mother, Lilette, was determined to make her unborn child pay for the inappropriate sexual relationship between her own mother and her father-in-law who lived nearby. Lilette had intended to leave her husband. "And to think I almost killed you," she would regularly tell him fondly.

Depardieu blames his turbulent upbringing for his strained relationship with his own children, who rebelled against him from an early age.

"I told them, 'What do you want? Change your name, for heaven's sake, if it bothers you.'"

Just like his father Dede, a metalworker and volunteer fireman, he says he has always struggled with telling his children he loved them.

"I could never find the words," he writes. "I know how to speak the words of others, but when it comes to my own, I am the son of Dédé."