Storm brews at Cannes over divisive Johnny Depp comeback

Storm brews at Cannes over divisive Johnny Depp comeback
Johnny Depp has made a comeback in Hollywood, and is at Cannes to participate in the annual film festival.
3 min read
The 2023 Cannes film festival opened on Tuesday [Getty]

The Cannes Film Festival was set for a stormy start on Tuesday as discontent rumbled over the organisers' decision to launch with Johnny Depp's comeback as the opening film.

The red carpet received a final vacuuming ahead of opening night, when some of Hollywood's biggest stars are set to decamp to the world's leading film festival that has turned the French Riviera resort into a hive of activity.

But while 21 films from around the globe are competing for the coveted top prize, the Palme d'Or, the festival has faced repeated questions over its choice of opening film.

The 59-year-old Depp will be feted on the red carpet, a sign of his ongoing popularity in Europe despite his megastar image nosediving in the US after toxic court battles with ex-wife Amber Heard.

His legal woes cast a reality-TV-like spotlight onto a turbulent private life involving alcohol, drugs and domestic abuse allegations.

But Depp has been gradually returning to work and arrives in Cannes with the French period drama "Jeanne du Barry", playing King Louis XV, the 18th-century monarch who fell in love with a prostitute.


'Violence in creative circles'

Although the film is playing out of competition, the jury for the Palme d'Or was asked about Depp's presence on Tuesday.

Jury member Brie Larson, star of "Captain Marvel" and an outspoken MeToo supporter, looked flustered.

"You are asking me that? I don't understand... Why me specifically?" she said.

"I don't know how I feel about it," she added, curtly.

There was anger online, however, with a friend of Heard, journalist Eve Barlow, started a new hashtag - #CannesYouNot - criticising the decision to invite Depp.

"Cannes seem proud of their history supporting rapists and abusers," Barlow wrote on Instagram, with pictures of Depp alongside past Cannes regulars such as Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski and Gerard Depardieu - all of whom have faced sexual assault allegations.

On Monday, festival director Thierry Fremaux said he was not interested in Depp's legal woes, saying: "I am interested in Depp the actor."

A group of 123 French film industry workers also denounced the festival for "rolling out the red carpet to men and women who commit assaults."


'Greatest film prize'

Michael Douglas will also attend the opening ceremony to receive an honorary Palme d'Or.

Jury chief Ruben Ostlund, who won the top prize last year, described the Palme as "the greatest film prize in the world. If I can choose between an Oscar and a Palme, it is an easy choice".

Of the films in the running for the award, a record seven have been directed by women.

Several Palme laureates are back in competition, including Britain's two-time winner Ken Loach, Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda and Germany's Wim Wenders.

The festival, which runs until May 27, includes a slew of hot-ticket premieres outside the main competition, including "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny", the fifth and final outing for Harrison Ford as the whip-cracking archaeologist.

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Saturday will see Martin Scorsese present his latest epic, "Killers of the Flower Moon", alongside stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.

That day also sees Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in indie favourite Todd Haynes's "May December," which is in the running for the Palme.

Around a thousand police and security guards are in place for the festival, amid fears of protests linked to President Emmanuel Macron's unpopular pension reforms, with the CGT union even threatening to cut power.