It was a surreal sight on Tuesday: A smiling Johnny Depp walking the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival 2023, signing autographs, taking selfies and hugging screaming fans. Just like old times.
His new film, “Jeanne du Barry” — which stars Depp as King Louis XV — opened the famous festival.
The likes of Helen Mirren, Uma Thurman, Elle Fanning, John C. Reilly, Brie Larson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas all attended the premiere at the Grand Théâtre Lumière.
At the end of the film, Depp received a seven-minute-long standing ovation.
The scene was so glitzy and, well, normal, you almost believe the guy could make a comeback.
Don’t bet on it. A love parade from the French can’t save a down-and-out Hollywood career, even if Depp’s no longer a pariah.
The last time the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star was greeted by throngs of photographers and video cameras was under far less auspicious circumstances in the late spring of 2022 — outside a courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, during his tawdry defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard.
On June 1, a jury awarded Depp a combined $15 million in damages after they found that Heard had defamed him in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed alleging spousal abuse.
Even if the jurors decided in Depp’s favor, the testimony was lurid and unflattering and neither notable came off blemish-free in the media frenzy.
That sleazy spectacle arrived after another legal circus in 2020, when the actor lost a libel case in the UK against the Sun newspaper, which in 2018 had called him a “wife beater.”
As a result of Heard’s allegations, Disney booted Depp in 2018 from future installments of the “Pirates” series, in which he played Captain Jack Sparrow.
In 2020, Warner Bros. pushed him to leave the “Fantastic Beasts” series, a “Harry Potter” spinoff.
Outside of a couple small projects, his reign in Hollywood looked dead.
Et voilà! Now, he’s back in grand fashion on the Cannes red carpet. Just don’t expect a triumphant return to the domestic box office.
“Jeanne du Barry” is a relatively petit French flick that’s nowhere near the scale of what Depp was doing as little as six years ago when he was among the highest paid movie stars.
And with the “Edward Scissorhands” actor turning 60 next month, the days of leading sexy studio tentpoles are far behind him for reasons other than the news cycle.
Add to that the fact that France and Cannes tend to be friendlier to controversial celebs. This is a festival that has regularly featured works by Woody Allen and Roman Polanski in recent years — even after both directors were accused of sexually abusing minors.
“I don’t know about the image of Johnny Depp in the US,” Cannes director Thierry Frémaux said at a press conference Monday. “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.”
Whatever Americans may think of Depp these days, he got another career boost this week.
France’s Dior just re-signed with him for $20 million, which is reportedly the biggest men’s fragrance deal ever. He’s the international face of their men’s scent Sauvage.
Still, Depp’s days as a swashbuckling sensation in family films or even as a killer barber in “Sweeney Todd” are clearly done.
In 2020, a studio head told the Hollywood Reporter, “You simply can’t work with him now … He’s radioactive.”
And US critics weren’t as friendly as les fans on Tuesday.
Reviews for “Jeanne” were mediocre. IndieWire said “the film burns hot and bright — and quickly flames out,” while the Hollywood Reporter called it “bland.”
But the French reaction to Depp can give him one comforting thought: He’ll always have Paris.
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