Why Johnny Depp’s Cannes Film Festival performance has been called a ‘slap in the face’
It’s been five years since Johnny Depp was last seen in a major Hollywood blockbuster – 2018 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald to be precise. Flash-forward to 2023 and the controversial actor gets his biggest stage since that creatively and commercially fateful Harry Potter precursor. Depp stars in the historical epic, Joan of Barrywhich served as the opening film of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday. His return to the big screen via such a prominent platform has already sparked controversy — here’s what you need to know about the debate over Depp’s Cannes performance.
Depp hasn’t exactly gone missing in between The Crimes of Grindelwald And Joan of Barry. Last year, he starred in one of the most-watched celebrity trials ever, when he and his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, faced each other in a Virginia courtroom for six weeks. Depp had the Aquarius star for defamation about a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which Heard stated that he was a victim of sexual and physical violence. Both stars took the stand during the bruising trial and their dueling testimonies were taken apart by the courtroom lawyers, pundits in the media and fans on social media.
The trial ended on June 1, 2022, when the jury ruled in Depp’s favor — a jam-packed verdict that led some to speculate whether the gains made during the #MeToo movement were lost. Depp was awarded a total of $15 million in damages, while Heard was awarded $2 million for her counterclaim. After exploring various post-trial options, the two camps reached a settlement in December. Heard took to Instagram in the aftermath of the settlement to say she had “lost faith in the U.S. justice system,” but that she still intended to use her voice to “improve change.”
The protracted, bitter legal battle affected the careers of both artists: Depp was released from his Fantastic beasts franchise duties, replaced by Mads Mikkelsen for the third film in the series, 2022’s Dumbledore’s Secretsand has since only appeared in internationally made dishes Waiting for the Barbarians And Minamata. Heard, meanwhile, will still appear in the DC Studios sequel, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, although the extent of her role is unclear. The actress was also the target of an intense social media campaign during and after the trial that Heard publicly labeled unfair.
“Even someone who is sure I deserve all this hate and vitriol, even if you think I’m lying, you still couldn’t tell me – look me in the eye and tell me – that you think on social media there is a fair representation,” Heard said Today in June. “You can’t tell me you think this has been fair.”
The crisis point
Depp’s appearance in Joan of Barry was first announced in January 2022 and the film went before cameras in July, after the trial. Directed by and starring French actress and filmmaker Maïwenn Le Besco, the film follows the scandalous life and times of King Louis XV’s mistress as she rises to power in his court just before the French Revolution overthrows the monarchy. brings. Joan of Barry was announced as the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival in April 2023 and festival director, Thierry Fremaux, has firmly defended the selection.
“I don’t know anything about Johnny Depp’s image in the US,” Fremaux recently remarked at a pre-Cannes press conference. “To tell you the truth, in my life I have only one rule, which is freedom of thought and freedom of expression and action within a legal framework.”
But Cannes judge Brie Larson struck a more ambivalent tone about Depp’s presence at the festival. At a jury press conference, Mr Room Oscar winner declined to say if she would attend Joan of Barry premiere — although attendance is not mandatory for judges, as the film is not in contention for the festival’s coveted top prize, the Palme d’Or.
Larson even seemed to suggest that she might not see the movie at all. “You’ll see, I think, when I see it,” she said. “And I don’t know how I’m going to feel about it if I do.” (Larson has often spoken out in favor of the #MeToo movement, refusing to applaud Casey Affleck after his Best Actor win at the 2017 Academy Awards following reports of sexual harassment claims against the actor.)
Larson was eventually photographed at the Cannes premiere of Joan of Barryalthough it is unclear whether the Fast X star watched the movie. Depp’s fans also flocked when he arrived to walk the red carpet, and the actor posed for selfies with the crowd. The crowd at the theater reportedly gave him a standing ovation as he took his seat for the screening.
Meanwhile, Heard’s supporters took to social media to protest Depp’s welcome to the Cannes red carpet using the hashtag #CannesYouNot. Beyond the Joan of Barry premiere, said one of the organizers of the campaign Variety: “The Depp to Heard process became the vehicle through which the backlash against the #MeToo movement went viral. Hollywood industries seem to be riding that backlash to get back to the status quo. Opening your festival with Johnny Depp? Frankly, it feels like a slap in the face.”
The first reviews of Joan of Barry from Cannes indicate that – aside from a standing ovation – Depp’s performance isn’t much to write home about:
Even the casting – some would say stunt casting – of Johnny Depp as the King offers a few early thrills and then mostly yawns, with Depp dishing out what feels like a grand total of a dozen lines in respectable French, while otherwise remaining mute. performances aren’t bad, and Maïwenn’s isn’t in the lead either. But the two, like the film, rarely make our hearts beat faster. With all the recent controversy surrounding Depp… the result of their collaboration is a beautiful period piece that feels both flat and shallow, and certainly far from everything scandal.” —Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter
“While performing entirely in French and getting plenty of screen time, the American star leaves an oddly parsimonious impression, with a vague and muted turn that plays off his wider reputation in often fascinating ways.” — Ben Croll, Indiewire
“Depp is not the first Hollywood outcast to find work in Europe, but it would be going too far to say that this feels like the first spark of a glorious comeback.” — Robbie Collin, The Telegraph
“For his part, Depp delivers his lines in well-turned French, with fine powder and a stiff white wig, and yet he seems oddly uneasy in the part — adequate but not particularly involved.” — Peter Debruge, Variety
While the movie will open in France right after its Cannes launch, there’s still no announcement of when or if it will open in the US (due to a prior licensing deal, Netflix will be the streaming home for the movie in France, but not in any other territory.) And while Depp has revealed plans to direct a new film based on the life of Italian recording artist Amedeo Modigliani, he notably has no new Hollywood roles in store.