Cannes director defends Johnny Depp movie opening film festival: ‘The movie isn’t about him’

‘I don’t see Maïwenn’s film as a controversial choice at all,’ Cannes chief said

Tom Murray
Friday 14 April 2023 06:19 BST
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Cannes Film Festival’s longtime director Thierry Fremaux has commented on the controversial decision to open this year’s event with Johnny Depp’s new film.

Jeanne Du Barry is directed by and stars French filmmaker Maïwenn alongside Depp. The French-language film tells the story of King Louis XV’s mistress Jeanne Vaubernier.

In an interview with Variety ahead of the May festival, Fremaux said he didn’t believe it was a “controversial” move to open with Maïwenn’s film.

“I don’t see Maïwenn’s film as a controversial choice at all, because if Johnny Depp had been banned from working it would have been different, but that’s not the case,” he said.

“We only know one thing, it’s the justice system and I think he won the legal case. But the movie isn’t about Johnny Depp.”

The film was shot in 2022, around the time of Depp’s highly publicised trial with ex-wife Amber Heard.

Depp sued Heard in Virginia court for defamation, claiming that she had falsely implied he was abusive towards her in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed titled: “I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”.

Johnny Depp in ‘Jeanne du Barry’
Johnny Depp in ‘Jeanne du Barry’ (Le Pacte)

A jury determined that Heard defamed Depp on all three counts and awarded him $10m (£8.2m) in compensatory damages and $5m (£4.1m) in punitive damages. Heard was awarded $2m (£1.6m) in compensatory damages.

Maïwenn plays the eponymous lead in the period drama, with Depp, in his first feature film role in three years, playing her king in the French-speaking role.

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The supporting cast includes Benjamin Lavernhe, Melvil Poupaud, Pierre Richard, Pascal Greggory and India Hair.

In the film’s synopsis, Vaubernier is described as “a young working-class woman hungry for culture and pleasure, who uses her intelligence and allure to climb the rungs of the social ladder one by one”.

“She becomes the favourite of King Louis XV who, unaware of her status as courtesan, regains through her his appetite for life. They fall madly in love. Against all propriety and etiquette, Jeanne moves to Versailles, where her arrival scandalises the court,” it reads.

Depp has not been cast in a major US film since his 2018 lawsuit against The Sun, which he lost after a UK court ruled that the tabloid’s description of him as a “wife beater” was “substantially true”.

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