Cannes Director Defends Johnny Depp’s ‘Jeanne du Barry’ as Opener: It’s Not a ‘Controversial Choice’

"The movie isn’t about Johnny Depp," said Thierry Fremaux.
Jeanne du Barry
"Jeanne du Barry"

Opening an acclaimed festival with a film featuring a problematic lead star and a director accused of assault? Not controversial at all.

Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux addressed the potential backlash to “Jeanne du Barry” being announced as the 2023 opening night selection. The period piece film stars Johnny Depp and Maïwenn as French king Louis XV and his lover Jeanne du Barry; Maïwenn, who was recently sued for assault, also directs the film.

“I don’t see Maïwenn’s film as a controversial choice at all, because if Johnny Depp had been banned from working it would have been different, but that’s not the case,” Fremaux told Variety. “We only know one thing, it’s the justice system and I think he won the legal case. But the movie isn’t about Johnny Depp.”

Depp won a defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard, alleging he lost out on work following her abuse accusations.

“Jeanne du Barry” is not debuting in competition and will not be eligible for the Palme d’Or.

“That’s because it’s the opening night film and last year as well the opening film wasn’t in competition,” Fremaux said, adding that the decision has nothing to do with the pending lawsuit against Maïwenn. “Not at all, because we didn’t know about it when we invited the film out of competition.”

Fremaux added that “Jeanne du Barry” has a modern commentary, being “about the place of women in politics.”

He continued, “I’d say that almost every film talk societal problems. It’s a very politically minded selection. Even Martin Scorsese’s film is about the relationship between Native Americans and white people, but in the 1920s. It explores our own moral sense, our humanity, our courage when faced with a situation where we have to say ‘no.'”

Instead of “Jeanne du Barry” angling for the Palme d’Or, Fremaux is focused on Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” vying for the festival’s top prize since the film is now eligible due to the announced theatrical release rollout from streamer Apple.

“When we saw the film back in November and when we invited it, it was an Apple movie. The situation has changed now that Apple has announced that it will be released in theaters everywhere, including in France, on Oct. 19,” he said. “That means it qualifies for the Cannes competition since, as you know, all films competing must have a theatrical release. So I told Apple and Martin Scorsese that considering how great the movie is, it’s obviously invited in competition. And now I’m waiting to hear their decision. We have until the last minute.”

Scorsese has not competed in competition at Cannes since winning the Palme d’Or with 1976’s “Taxi Driver.”

“When Fellini won the Palme d’Or for ‘La Dolce Vita,’ he said ‘I’m not coming back in competition,’ and Marty won the Palme d’Or in 1976,” Fremaux said. “So obviously one could say, he doesn’t have much to gain considering his prestigious status. Except one thing: the Palme d’Or. I think he should come in competition.”

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