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Johnny Depp received a 7-minute standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival


By Sarah Gill
19th May 2023

@Dior on Instagram

Johnny Depp received a 7-minute standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival

Cannes have rolled out the red carpet for alleged abuser Johnny Depp, and it’s raised question marks over why the industry is so quick to support his ‘comeback’.

This year’s Cannes Film Festival opened with the grand premiere of Johnny Depp’s first film since the incredibly high profile defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard, Jeanne du Barry. Receiving a standing ovation that spanned seven whole minutes in the Grand Theatre Lumière, a teary-eyed Depp soaked up the applause, feeling the warm embrace of his industry peers once again.

Speaking at a festival press conference, the actor made clear his thoughts on Hollywood, painting a picture of himself as an innocent victim of cancel culture.

“Did I feel boycotted by Hollywood?” he said. “Well, you’d have to not have a pulse not to feel that way … When you’re asked to resign from a film because of [allegations] that are merely just vowels and consonants floating in the air, you do feel a bit boycotted. But do I feel boycotted now? No, not at all. I don’t feel boycotted by Hollywood because I don’t think about it at all. I don’t have much further need for Hollywood myself.”

The “fantastically, horrifically written fiction” that he is referring to are the domestic abuse allegations made by his ex-wife Amber Heard in a first-person essay published by the Washington Post that prompted the now-infamous defamation case, where Depp sued Heard for $50 million and she counter-sued for $100 million.

A ruling was made in favour of Depp, with Heard’s countersuit being successful on one count. Regardless, over the course of the seven tumultuous weeks, the court, jury, and half the online world — Law & Crime reported record-breaking viewing numbers, with over 330 million people tuning in live — heard unsettling details of the former couple’s relationship.

Violent and explicit text messages exchanged between Depp and his friends were read aloud, some of which contained “jokes” of wanting to burn and rape Heard’s corpse. Photos of bruises were shown, witnesses testified as to the nature of Depp’s explosive temper, and the actor’s unprofessional behaviour was largely documented throughout. The jury’s decision is valid and legally binding, but does that necessarily make Depp a person that anyone would want to provide a platform for?

So, less than a year on from the ruling, Depp’s return is already being lauded by industry elite, but his ‘redemption’ arc has been bubbling for a while now. In the months since the court adjourned for the last time, he’s been modelling for Savage X Fenty, signed the most lucrative men’s fragrance deal in history with Dior, exhibiting expensive paintings of dead celebrities, released a new album, and bagged his first directing role in 25 years.

Making thoroughly redundant the argument that allegations of abuse against men ruins their lives, Depp was at the centre of a rapt audience once again at the Cannes Film Festival press conference. When asked what he would say to those who think he should not be platformed by the festival, Depp could barely stifle his scoff.

“So, we’re speaking theoretically about if there were people that didn’t want me to come to the Cannes Film Festival? What if one day they did not allow me, under no circumstances, I cannot go to McDonald’s for life?” he said. “Because somewhere, if you got them all in one room, there’d be 39 angry people watching me eat a Big Mac on a loop. Why are they, why do they care? Some species, some tower of mashed potatoes covering the light of a computer screen, anonymous, with apparently a lot of spare time. I don’t think I’m the one who should be worried.”

This pseudo intellectual, metaphorically confusing and pompous unwillingness to believe that there are a lot of people who believe his presence at the festival to be hugely inappropriate in light of recent events is currently being disproved by the the #CannesYouNot movement circulating on social media.

While protesting has been banned by Cannes, the hashtag began making the rounds before the festival had even opened. Eve Barlow, journalist and friend of Heard, shared the #CannesYouNot hashtag to Instagram with a caption that read: “Cannes seem proud of their history supporting rapists and abusers. Plus ça change,” which roughly translates to, ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’

The carousel of posts also features quotes of audio shared over the course of the trial — “I headbutted you in the fucking forehead, that doesn’t break a nose” — and the faces of other prominent predators — Roman Polanski, Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Gerard Depardieu and Luc Besson — that have been warmly received at Cannes.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CsML7rdxNk8/

Adèle Haenel, the star of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, denounced the French film industry’s complacency toward sexual aggressors and, in an open letter published in Telerama magazine, explained that her decision to retire was a political act. She wrote: “In a context of historic social movement, we’re awaiting to see if the big players of the film industry are expecting — like the sponsors from the luxury industry — police forces to make sure everything happens as usual on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival.

“They’re ready to do anything to defend their rapist chiefs, those who are so rich that they believe they belong to a superior species, those who make a show of this superiority by… objectifying women and subordinates.”

So, what do the festival’s organisers have to say about things?

Thierry Fremaux, Cannes Film Festival’s chief, addressed the decision to make Depp’s movie the festival opener. “I don’t know about the image of Johnny Depp in the US. 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.”

Fremaux added, “As for the rest, 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 publicised trial, it’s me. I don’t know what it’s about. I also care about Johnny Depp as an actor.”

As we know, Depp won the legal battle, but his incendiary presence at this once-respected event should prompt us the masses to reassess their support of an industry with a long track record of platforming abusers.