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Johnny Depp’s long road back to Hollywood via Cannes? Jeanne du Barry prepares for launch

Johnny Depp's next film could premiere at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in May.

Johnny Depp's next film could premiere at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in May. Photo: Instagram/Premiere

Almost three years after Hollywood actor Johnny Depp’s last feature film premiered at festivals around the world, the once-almighty Pirates of the Caribbean star has returned to the big screen in a very regal role.

Filmed over 11 weeks last year, two photos from French writer/director Maïwenn’s period drama Jeanne du Barry, show Depp, 59, in full costume playing 18th century King Louis XV.

Known as Louis The Beloved, the story follows his last royal mistress Jeanne du Barry, a young working-class woman born into poverty who climbed the ladder to become his royal mistress at the Court of Versailles.

The Netflix film is now in post-production with a launching pad potentially at the world’s most exclusive, uber-rich film festival in May.

Described as a “knowledgeable film industry player”, a source has told People magazine “there have been conversations” about the film premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, which opens on May 16 on the French Riviera.

After well-documented defamation cases in the UK in 2018 and the US last year involving his ex-wife Amber Heard amid allegations of domestic abuse, the question is whether Hollywood is ready to accept the sins of the past and lay a foundation for a road to redemption?

Although it could very well be at Cannes, one well-placed industry insider tells the New York Post: “I think he will have a career, but I don’t see him being redeemed.”

“I think big-name people in Hollywood will steer clear of him,” the source cautioned.

Big studios ‘scandal averse’

In 2020, Depp lost a libel case against The Sun newspaper in the UK after they published an article calling him a “wife beater”.

He sued the paper after it claimed he assaulted Heard, which he denies. The Sun said the article was accurate.

The allegations of violence spanned the period between 2013 and 2016, when the couple split.

Judge Mr Justice Nicol said the newspaper proved what was in the article to be “substantially true”, the BBC reported at the time.

Depp and Heard divorced in 2017 and a year later, Heard wrote a feature in The Washington Post that described her surviving an abusive relationship.

Depp was not named in the piece. However, he sued Heard for $US50 million in damages.

It was dubbed the “trial of the century”, and the pair faced off in a live-streamed courtroom in Virginia, where details of their toxic marriage were aired over several weeks.

Both claimed their careers and reputations had been damaged and in the end, the jury determined Heard had defamed Depp.

“There are different levels of shunning,” the industry source told The Post.

“[Depp] is not at the Kevin Spacey level. My guess is that he is more in the Mel Gibson range. The international audience will be happy to see him in things and probably a lot of people in the United States as well.

“But I can tell you something about both of those guys [Depp and Gibson] … if you bring them up in the dominant studio world [as candidates to anchor a film], it is not a no, but it is a question: ‘Who else do you have?’”

“Disney is the most scandal-averse of the studios because of their brand and theme parks,” he said.

That would include whether Disney would want him back for a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean, despite Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer previously telling The Hollywood Reporter he’d be open to his return.

“You’d have to ask them [Disney]. I can’t answer that question. I really don’t know. I would love to have him in the movie. He’s a friend, a terrific actor and it’s unfortunate that personal lives creep into everything we do,” Bruckheimer said.

Would he ever kill off Jack Sparrow?

“You can’t. We tried to kill him. It didn’t work.”

Depp made inroads with Minamata

In 2020, Depp, 58, played war photographer W Eugene Smith in Minamata, a biopic about how he travels back to Japan and documents the devastating effect of mercury poisoning in coastal communities.

He rocked up at the Berlin International Film Festival for the world premiere and the film was eagerly snapped up by distributors around the world, eventually opening to a limited cinematic release in the US in late 2021.

“He’ll continue to do movies financed in the international market, financed with foreign production companies,” the insider says.

“The deals will come from people who are third or fourth tier.

“They show up with a lot of money and it all goes to the star. You saw that at the end of Bruce Willis’s career. You see that in terms of John Travolta.”

Depp has spent the latter part of 2022 mostly in Europe, touring with Jeff Beck and then appearing in a November cameo in Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show.

He’s now in pre-production and will direct biopic Modigliani, his first director’s gig in 25 years, which he is co-producing with Al Pacino.

According to US film website The Playlist, while an exact date of Jeanne du Barry is not yet confirmed, if the film does debut at Cannes, it will showcase in French cinemas first.

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