Cannes: Johnny Depp Tears Up During Warm Standing Ovation at ‘Jeanne du Barry’ Premiere

The fever surrounding this year’s Cannes Film Festival finally broke on Tuesday evening as the 76th edition kicked off in the South of France by hosting Johnny Depp and his opening-night film from Maïwenn, Jeanne du Barry.

There’s wild anticipation every year ahead of the official rolling out the red carpet in front of the Palais des Festivals, but this year’s hype hit another level given the swirls surrounding both the actor and the filmmaker, who also stars as the favored mistress of 18th century monarch Louis XV, played by Depp. The film, Depp and #Cannes2023 all were trending topics on Twitter by early Tuesday afternoon as debates continued to rage — online and off — over the film’s inclusion in the lineup.

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Depp arrived at precisely 7 p.m. with slicked-back hair, ponytail and sunglasses in a Dior by Kim Jones tuxedo, flanked security detail while he signed autographs and posed for pictures with excited fans for more than five minutes. On a balcony above the street, a sign read “Viva Johnny” as people shouted his name over and over. Cannes marked the actor’s first red carpet outing since the Rome Film Festival in 2021, and it’s his first major appearance amid a comeback after years of legal wrangling and a messy divorce with ex-wife Amber Heard, one that included allegations of domestic violence and two high-profile defamation lawsuits. None of that seemed to matter as the festival and the throngs of Depp admirers gave him a true movie star’s welcome.

Maïwenn, a Cannes jury prize winner for her 2011 drama Polisse and an outspoken critic of the #MeToo movement, faced her own share of controversy of late after allegations surfaced that she grabbed the head of journalist Edwy Plenel and spit on him while he was dining at a Paris restaurant. Plenel published an investigation regarding sexual abuse allegations against filmmaker Luc Besson, who happens to be Maïwenn’s ex-husband. She confirmed the allegations during a TV talk show appearance last week.

None of that came up during Depp’s brief interview with a French journalist upon arriving on the red carpet. Up first, Depp joked about speaking French in the film by saying that he was “hiding my French teacher.” He praised Maïwenn as a filmmaker by saying that her “vision of the entire film was incredibly consistent” throughout production. “She’s mighty,” he continued, adding that she was also flexible in her process and open to trying different options. “I thought she did a beautiful job on set.”

Depp, Maïwenn and the cast of the film walked onto the red carpet as The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” played over the speakers.

Pauline Pollmann, Diego Le Fur, Director Maienn, Johnny Depp, Pierre Richard, Benjamin Lavernhe, Pascal Greggory and Melvil Poupaud attend the "Jeanne du Barry" Screening & opening ceremony red carpet at the 76th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals on May 16, 2023 in Cannes, France.
The Jeanne du Barry team, from left: Pauline Pollmann, Diego Le Fur, filmmaker and star Maïwenn, Johnny Depp, Pierre Richard, Benjamin Lavernhe, Pascal Greggory and Melvil Poupaud

The film not only opened the Cannes Film Festival, it also opened today in cinemas across France. The Hollywood Reporter obtained a flyer that French feminists are distributing outside the opening ceremony and at some French cinemas. The lengthy letter recounts the allegations against Depp and the legal tug-of-war with Heard and calls upon the industry to shed power dynamics.

“Choosing to open the world’s most prestigious film festival with an attacker waving at the crowd on the red carpet … conveys a clear, devastating message. In 2023, the voices of victims and their allies continue to be questioned, ignored and silenced by others. We ask for a responsible film industry that is willing to get rid of dynamics of power. We demand that the cinema that defends the ideas and values we hold dear does so not only in its narratives and representations, but also in the way it is made and screened.”

Stepping into the theater, Depp and the cast received a warm welcome, with the audience greeting them with a standing ovation.

After the screening, the audience celebrated Depp and Maïwenn with a standing ovation, during which they both teared up. Following this, Maïwenn offered brief remarks, which has become an unofficial Cannes practice that has emerged in the past few festivals. She commented that it was difficult to finance the film, and thanked her collaborators and financiers.

Jeanne du Barry is not the only story of the night. Michael Douglas turned up to the festivities to receive an honorary Palme d’Or in recognition of his career and contributions to cinema. He was joined by wife Catherine Zeta-Jones and their daughter, Carys.

Douglas received the honor after a brief tribute from Uma Thurman and a film reel that highlighted his decades-long contribution to the art form in such films as Wall Street, Fatal Attraction, Romancing the Stone, Black Rain, Falling Down, Ant-Man and many more. Thurman called him a “titan” who has made a profound and lasting impact on cinema as Zeta-Jones and Carys looked on, beaming.

In his remarks at center stage, Douglas quipped that at 78 years old, he’s two years older than the festival. He then looked back on his 55-year career and wondered “how I’ve lasted so long.” Douglas had an answer, attributing his success to the foundation he built at the very beginning. He began, “There is only one Cannes. I have great memories of this festival in the past 40-plus years.”

He credited such pillars as Karl Malden, studying at American Place Theatre and his late father, the legendary Kirk Douglas, for being foundational to his now decades-long career. “To the public, he was superman, but to me he was Dad,” Douglas said. The Oscar winner said he spent eight months living and working in France on his most recent job, playing Benjamin Franklin in the upcoming miniseries Franklin. On that note, he thanked Cannes and the country of France for their contributions to his career. It was fitting then that Catherine Deneuve came to the stage as they took turns with the official proclamation to declare the opening of this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

As always, the opening ceremony was packed with international movie stars and filmmakers, models and French glitterati. Among those making their way up the Palais steps were Deneuve, Helen Mirren (with blue hair and a fan featuring the hashtage #WorthIt), Thurman (with son Levon Roan Thurman-Hawke), Elle Fanning, Mads Mikkelsen, Naomi Campbell, Guardians of the Galaxy star Pom Klementieff, Fan Bingbing, Farhana Bodi, Alessandra Ambrosio, Xavier Dolan, Hofit Galan, Fagun Thakrar, Jiang Megjie, Guan Xiaotong, Simona Tabasco and Cindy Bruna.

Elle Fanning
Elle Fanning

This year’s competition jury also walked together, including president Ruben Östlund, Brie Larson, Paul Dano, Titane-directing Palme d’Or winner Julia Ducournau, I Am Not a Witch breakout filmmaker Rungano Nyoni, actor Denis Ménochet, Argentinian director Damián Szifron, Afghanistan-born, France-based filmmaker Atig Ranimi and Moroccan director Maryam Touzani.

(L to R) Members of the Jury Paul Dano, Denis Ménochet, Brie Larson, President of the Jury Ruben Östlund, Damian Szifron, Julia Ducournau, Atiq Rahimi and Maryam Touzani
Members of the Cannes competition jury, from left: Paul Dano, Denis Ménochet, Brie Larson, jury president Ruben Östlund, Damian Szifron, Julia Ducournau, Atiq Rahimi and Maryam Touzani

So did members of the Un Certain Regard jury, including president John C. Reilly, Davy Chou, Alice Winocour, Paula Beer and Emilie Dequenne.

(L to R) Members of the Jury Un Certain Regard Davy Chou, Paula Beer, Alice Winocour, Émilie Dequenne and President of the Jury John C. Reilly
The Cannes Un Certain Regard jury, from left: Davy Chou, Paula Beer, Alice Winocour, Émilie Dequenne and jury president John C. Reilly.

During Tuesday’s jury press conference, Cannes newbie Larson fielded a question from Variety about Depp and whether she would see the out-of-competition Jeanne du Barry. As an advocate for sexual assault survivors and former member of the Time’s Up advisory board, Larson said, “You’ll see if I see it, and I don’t know how I’ll feel about it if I do.”

Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux was more direct during his press conference on Monday ahead of the official opening, saying, “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 act 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.” Fremaux then said he paid no attention to Depp’s divorce and the media spectacle of the defamation trials.

“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 [against Heard], it’s me. I don’t know what it’s about. I care about Johnny Depp as an actor.”

This story originally published May 26 at 10:26 a.m.

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