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Johnny Depp: “I Don’t Feel Much Further Need for Hollywood”

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Where’s Johnny?

In a normal year at the Cannes Film Festival, the premiere of a warmly received French period drama would be followed by a decidedly understated press conference, with the director and stars patiently lined up to discuss the work’s creation for the international media. But that’s not how it goes down when the film happens to star Johnny Depp, one of the world’s biggest celebrities in the midst of an attempted career reboot following several years of damaging and divisive scandal.

On the first full day of screenings Wednesday at the world’s most prestigious film festival, the hottest ticket in town was nevertheless the press conference for the prior night’s opening film, Jeanne du Barry, starring Depp as King Louis XV and the director Maïwenn as his favored mistress. But as the film’s director and cast walked into the hall for the briefing, a deflating feeling swept through the room as Depp was conspicuously absent.

The event’s moderator, Cannes regular Didier Allouch, assured the audience that Depp would arrive late and repeatedly gave an atypical warning to the crowd to stay in their seats and not to approach the stage — apparently an added security precaution for the star (typically press throng the front of the room to take photos as the actors enter).

Depp finally strode into the room to applaud some 45 minutes after the event had begun.

Cannes marks Depp’s first starring performance after years of legal wrangling and a messy divorce with ex-wife Amber Heard, which included allegations of domestic violence and two high-profile defamation lawsuits. None of that mattered Tuesday night on the Côte d’Azur, however, where Depp was greeted by throngs of super-fans along the red carpet — and later received a seven-minute standing ovation from the Cannes glitteratti as the credits rolled on. Jeanne du Barry‘s first screening (critics’ reviews for the film were more muted, though).

But the scene inside the press conference room was predictably more controversial, albeit politely so. Early after his arrival, Depp was asked whether he “still feels boycotted by Hollywood,” a statement he made in an interview in 2021 shortly after Heard’s allegations against him emerged and he was dropped from Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts Franchise.

“Did I feel boycotted by Hollywood? Well, you’d have to not have a pulse to feel at that point like this was all just a weird joke,” he replied. “Of course, when you’re asked to resign from a film you’re doing because of something that’s merely a bunch of vowels and consonants floating in the air… Do I feel boycotted now? No, not at all. But I don’t feel boycotted because I don’t think about Hollywood. I don’t feel much further need for Hollywood — I don’t know about you.”

He added: “It’s a very strange, funny time when everyone would love to be themselves, but they can’t because they must fall in line with the person in front of them. If you want to follow that line, be my guest. I’ll be on the other side.”

Depp later alluded to the controversies again and acknowledged that it has been difficult for him to move on as a public figure.

“The majority of you who have been reading for the last five or six years, with regards to me and my life — the majority of what you’ve read is fantastically, horrifically written fiction,” he said. “The fact is, we’re here to talk about the film. But it’s like asking the question, ‘How are you doing?’ But what’s underneath in the subtext is, ‘God, I hate you.’ That’s the sort of media thing.”

The actor also objected to the framing of his appearance in the new film as “comeback.”

“I keep wondering about the word ‘comeback,’ because I didn’t go anywhere,” Depp said. “I live about 45 minutes away. Maybe people stopped calling out of whatever their fear was at the time. But I didn’t go anywhere. I’ve been sitting around. ‘Comeback’ is almost like I’m going to come out and do a tap dance — dance my best and hope you approve. That’s the notion. It’s a bizarre mystery.”

In Jeanne du Barry, Maïwenn plays herself as the title character alongside Depp, Benjamin Lavernhe, Melvil Poupaud, Pierre Richard, Pascal Greggory and India Hair. The movie’s story follows Jeanne Vaubernier, a young working-class woman hungry for culture and pleasure, who uses her intelligence and allure to relentlessly climb the rungs of the time’s social ladder. She becomes the favorite of King Louis XV (Depp) who, unaware of her status as a courtesan, regains through her his appetite for life. They fall madly in love, and against all propriety and etiquette, Jeanne moves to Versailles, where her arrival scandalizes the court.

The film was released in French cinemas simultaneously with its Cannes bow. Outside cinemas in Cannes and across France on opening night, French feminists handed out flyers containing a lengthy letter recounting the allegations against Depp and the legal tug-of-war with Heard, along with a call upon the film industry to shed patriarchal power dynamics.

Despite the surrounding controversy, reactions to the film itself have been rather muted. The News84Media‘s critic described the film as “sumptuously made” and filled with “jaw-dropping costumes” — but “also, well, kind of bland.”



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