The French are still enamored with Johnny Depp.
The embattled actor, who hasn’t appeared in public since his protracted 2022 legal battle with ex-girlfriend Amber Heard, received an ecstatic seven-minute standing ovation on Tuesday night at the premiere of Cannes Film Festival’s opening night film “Jeanne Du Barry.”
Depp held back tears as the crowd in the South of France erupted in prolonged applause for his performance as the King Louis XV. He waved to the audience in the balcony and seemed taken aback by the response.
The film’s director and star Maiwenn also broke out into tears as she briefly took the mic. “I want to share this moment with my lover, with my producer, with Le Pacte,” she said. “It was a production that was difficult to finance … and I want to share this moment with all my team across the theater.”
Depp arrived to Cannes welcomed by thousands of supportive fans, who carried signs outside the Palais and trembled as they tried to touch their idol. Many were successful in making contact with Depp, who worked the fan line outside for five full minutes before walking the carpet.
“Jeanne du Barry” stars Maiwenn as Jeanne Vaubernier, a working class woman in 18th century France who rises the social ranks and becomes King Louis XV’s lover. Her working class roots makes her a social pariah in the king’s court. The supporting cast includes Benjamin Lavernhe, Pierre Richard, Melvil Poupaud and Pascal Greggory.
Maiwenn’s latest courted controversy long before Cannes opening night. The film marks Depp’s most high profile acting role since the conclusion of his 2022 legal battle against ex-wife Amber Heard. Although the jury sided in Depp’s favor, the actor remains on the sidelines of Hollywood as a result of abuse allegations that surfaced during the trial. Festival director Thierry Fremaux spoke to press ahead of opening night and addressed Depp’s presence at Cannes.
“I don’t know about the image of Johnny Depp in the U.S,” Fremaux said. “To tell you the truth, in my life, I only have one rule: It’s the freedom of thinking, and the freedom of speech and acting within a legal framework. If Johnny Depp had been banned from acting in a film, or the film was banned, we wouldn’t be here talking about it.”
“This [controversy] came up once the film was announced at Cannes because everybody knew Johnny had made a film in France…I don’t know why she chose him but it’s a question you should ask Maiwenn,” Fremaux added. “As for the rest, I’m the last person to be able to discuss all this. If there’s one person in this world who didn’t find the least interest in this very publicized trial, it’s me. I don’t know what it’s about. I also care about Johnny Depp as an actor.”
Maiwenn also found herself at the center of controversy before opening night after she admitted to spitting on a French journalist. The director is now being sued by Edwy Plenel, the editor-in-chief of Mediapart magazine, because of the incident. Maiwenn, who was sitting by herself at a restaurant, allegedly went to Plenel’s table and grabbed him by the hair before spitting in his face.
Asked on the French TV talkshow “Quotidien” if she could confirm that she had assaulted Edwy Plenel, Maiwenn said, “Do I confirm that I assaulted him? Yes.”
Plenel spoke exclusively to Variety ahead of opening night about the incident, saying, “This aggression caused more stupor than anything else. She didn’t aggress me individually, but the symbol that I represent, as the founder and director of a journal, which in France, has been on the forefront of all the #MeToo revelations.”
Depp received thunderous applause from fans when he showed up on the red carpet outside the Palais. His fans were waiting with posters, shrines and more as they screamed when they made his way over to sign autographs.
“Jeanne du Barry” is seeking U.S. distribution at the festival.