Johnny Depp Puts World’s Largest Film Festival In Big Trouble

The 2023 Cannes Film Festival has come under fire for screening controversial star Johnny Depp's new movie.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

Johnny Depp

The opening film at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival has been named Jeanne du Barry, starring Johnny Depp, but the news has generated mixed reactions among some movie enthusiasts. While many are looking forward to seeing the actor’s portrayal of French King Louis XV, others are still wary of the controversies surrounding him following the defamation trial against Amber Heard.

Despite the accusations revealed during the ordeal, Johnny Depp has been welcomed back into the entertainment industry. Speaking about the actor’s controversial inclusion, Cannes Film Festival Chief Thierry Fremaux says he does not see a problem with the highly anticipated biographical drama opening the illustrious 12-day event.

“I don’t know about the image of Johnny Depp in the U.S,” Fremaux told the press via Variety. “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,” he added.

johnny depp
Johnny Depp as Louis XV// (c) Stéphanie Branchu / Why Not Productions

Fremaux emphasized that Cannes selects films based on their artistic merit and that Jeanne du Barry was deemed worthy of opening the festival. “We saw Maiwenn’s film, and it could have been in competition. She would have been the eighth female director,” Fremaux continued. He added that if anyone had questions about why the embattled actor had been cast, they should ask the director.

 “I don’t know why she chose him, but it’s a question you should ask Maiwenn,” Fremaux added that he cannot comment on the controversy surrounding the Pirates of the Caribbean star as he did not watch the trial. “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,” he explained.

The Cannes Chief Fremaux was under scrutiny after dismissing actress Adele Haenel’s recent open letter, which accused the festival of defending rapists. She also accused the event of celebrating filmmakers, like Roman Polanski, who have been found guilty of sexual misconduct. In his response, Fremaux called her words “radical” and “false.”

“She didn’t think that when she came to Cannes unless she suffered from a crazy dissonance,” Fremaux said about Haenel’s claims. “People use Cannes to talk about certain issues, and it’s normal because we give them a platform.” Speaking to the press directly, he added that if anyone thought it was a festival for rapists, they wouldn’t be clamoring for tickets.

Despite the backlash, Cannes is expected to bring in its usual star-studded crowd, who will be treated to Jeanne du Barry when the event opens. The French biographical drama is written and directed by Maïwenn, who also stars as the titular character. Pierre Richard, Benjamin Lavernhe Noémie Lvovsky, Pascal Greggory, Melvil Poupaud, and India Hair also appear in the film.

The story follows Madame du Barry, who uses her intelligence and allure to climb the social ladder. She eventually catches the eye of King Louis XV. They fall in love, and against all propriety and etiquette, du Barry moves to Versailles, where her arrival causes a major scandal. After opening the Cannes Film Festival on 16 May, the movie will be theatrically released in France before its release on Netflix 15 months later.