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The controversial actor is playing his first lead role in three years in “Jeanne du Barry," which opened Cannes Film Festival Tuesday. The movie, which stars Depp as King Louis XV and French actress Maïwenn as the king's mistress, reportedly received a seven-minute standing ovation.
This time last year, Depp was immersed in an explosive libel trial he brought against ex-wife Amber Heard. After both Depp and Heard accused each other of physical and verbal abuse, a civil jury awarded $10 million in damages to Depp and $2 million to Heard − a win for Depp, and a partial win for Heard.
To many, the trial verdict vindicated Depp, who previously lost a libel suit against The Sun after the tabloid called him a "wife beater." Cannes organizers' decision to open with Depp's film has still garnered backlash, however. In the past week, more than 2,000 Twitter users have tweeted the hashtag #cannesyounot, with many quoting incendiary texts Depp sent regarding ex-wife Amber Heard.
Depp addressed the controversy around his Cannes reception in a tense press conference Wednesday morning and a subsequent interview with The Associated Press.
With the actor back in the spotlight, here’s everything you need to know about his new film, his response to his critics, and his recent personal and professional struggles.
Who's talking about Johnny Depp's comeback?
Speaking to AP Wednesday, Depp cast his recent legal battles in the light of past Hollywood scandals.
“I don’t think Marlon would have survived,” Depp said, referencing Marlon Brando. “I don’t think he came close to going through something like this. Had he been alive to watch this happen, he would have gone sideways. He would have killed somebody.”
During his televised trial last summer, Depp became a hero to some critics of so-called cancel culture. “I did notice that people actually opened their mouths about it. At that time, that was brave,” he said when asked if he had any misgivings about the supporters he attracted. “Not for a moment will I regret anything unless I’ve done something horrible to someone, which I haven’t.”
At his film's news conference, to which Depp arrived late, the star called most of what’s been written about him in recent years as “fantastically, horrifically written fiction." "Do I feel boycotted? No," the actor answered one reporter. "I don't have much further need for Hollywood."
Cannes juror Brie Larson was asked to comment on Depp's controversies ahead of the festival's opening night, in light of her role as a former adviser to Time's Up, which raises money to support victims of sexual harassment. The actress did not say whether she planned to see "Jeanne du Barry," adding "I don't know how I'll feel about it if I do." She was later photographed inside the theater.
Cannes director Thierry Frémaux was questioned before the festival began about the choice to open with Depp's film. "If there’s one person in this world who didn’t find the least interest in (Depp's) very publicized trial, it’s me," he said Monday at Cannes. "I don’t know what it’s about. I care about Johnny Depp as an actor."
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What happened to Johnny Depp?
Depp was once one of Hollywood's biggest A-listers, starring in everything from Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" to Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands." However, his star began to wane in the mid-2010s, when he suffered financial troubles, a series of box-office disappointments, and a separation from longtime partner Vanessa Paradis.
Depp married his now ex-wife Heard in 2015. In 2016, Heard filed for divorce and soon filed for a temporary restraining order against Depp. Heard accused Depp of verbal and physical abuse, but the pair later settled their divorce out of court.
In 2018, Depp sued The Sun after the British tabloid called him a "wife beater." British Justice Andrew Nicol ruled against Depp's defamation claim in 2020 and determined that 12 incidents of domestic violence had occurred.
Amber Heard, Johnny Depp: Who we choose to believe
Did Johnny Depp win his lawsuit against Amber Heard?
In 2019, Depp also sued Heard for $50 million in the U.S., claiming that she defamed him in a 2018 opinion piece Heard wrote for The Washington Post. The piece did not name Depp; it was titled: "I spoke up against sexual violence − and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change."
Both testified in the trial, which was televised, and shared graphic details of their abuse claims. Heard countersued, also for defamation, over comments made by Depp's former lawyer Adam Waldman, who had called Heard's abuse allegations a "hoax."
Depp said he was "truly humbled" that the "jury gave me my life back" in a statement to USA TODAY following the verdict.
Where does Johnny Depp's career go from here?
Depp's court cases have resulted in several career setbacks. In 2020, Depp was dropped from the "Fantastic Beasts" films several days after he lost his suit against The Sun. Also in 2020, The Hollywood Reporter published a story on Depp titled "'He’s Radioactive': Inside Johnny Depp’s Self-Made Implosion" and cited unnamed studio executives who described Depp as a liability.
However, Depp's highly publicized U.S. trial seems to have rehabilitated his image somewhat. In 2022, Depp appeared as the MTV Video Music Awards mascot, the moonperson. In November, he walked in Rihanna's Savage X Fenty fashion show. Last week, Variety reported that Dior signed a $20 million deal with Depp, "the biggest men's fragrance pact ever."
Is Johnny Depp's career kaput? Maybe, but don't underestimate the devotion of his fans
The future of Depp's film career, however, remains uncertain. It's unclear when, or even if, Depp's new film will be released in the U.S., and Cannes has been accused of being too welcoming of men accused of misconduct. Last week, acclaimed French actress Adèle Haenel wrote an open letter saying Cannes and other pillars of the film industry were "ready to do anything to defend their rapist chiefs."
Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff, Naledi Ushe and Maria Puente, USA TODAY, Jake Coyle and Pan Pylas, The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Johnny Depp addresses Cannes backlash after Brie Larson's comments