Johnny Depp has played Cannes many times, with four of his films in competition: “Dead Man” and “Ed Wood” (both 1995), “The Brave” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998), but he’s never put on that much the Croisette. Depp gets horny as King Ludwig professional rehab.
Depp, who will turn 60 in a few weeks, is long past his movie star career and continues to recover from a series of court cases. Depp lost his UK libel case against his ex-wife Amber Heard for “wife-thugs” in 2020, but last June he won $10 million in damages in a US court. Warner Bros. paid its $16 million fee for the third “Fantastic Beasts” Movie, but asked him to step down from the role of Grindelwald in the Harry Potter series. (Mads Mikkelsen replaced him.) While Depp’s Keith Richards-inspired Jack Sparrow spawned five Pirates of the Caribbean films that have grossed $4.5 billion worldwide, Disney still hasn’t greenlit a sixth film given; The studio nominated Margot Robbie sans Depp as the lead actress.
On the other hand, Depp is “still a very significant foreigner,” a Hollywood agent wrote in an email.
Jeanne du Barry opens after its festival debut in France; While some feminists have protested, Europeans seem less concerned about Depp’s failings. “If there’s one person who hasn’t been interested in this process, it’s me,” Cannes director Thierry Frémaux said at Monday’s press conference in Cannes. “I do not know what you are talking about. I’m interested in Johnny Depp as an actor. Everyone knew Johnny Depp was going to be in a movie in France. He’s quite exceptional in the film. Ask Maïwenn why she cast him.”
Obviously, Maïwenn Depp cast in a role supporting character role. But the ponytailed star showed up just in time for the Cannes red carpet, signing autographs for adoring fans, speaking French to interviewers and posing for an eager phalanx of photographers. The reviews so far are solid, if not exceptional. (Our reviewer described it as “Completely usable,” with Depp as a side note, who “adds an extra bit of sparkle to the French production.”) The film is unlikely to be released in North America.
In America, Depp arouses different feelings. At Tuesday’s competition jury press conference, judge Brie Larson might as well have been speaking for Hollywood when asked about Depp in Jeanne du Barry. “We’ll see if I see it,” she said. “And I don’t know what I’ll think if I do.”
Depp could do well if he keeps his focus on Europe. He has his own well-funded production company, Infinitum Nihil, in London. “I’m not sure Hollywood has more to offer him than Europe at this point in his career,” one indie producer wrote in an email. “He’s not going to do ‘My Daughter Was Kidnapped’ movies, and how many performers for actors his age are we generating here?” He seems to be doing pretty much what he wants to do there.”
Depp will now direct and star in Modi, a Modigliani biopic starring Al Pacino. The distribution company Goodfellas (FKA Wild Bunch) is looking for supporters at the Cannes market. This isn’t a big-studio film, and at a time when art-house cinemas are facing challenges, US buyers won’t necessarily want to pre-buy it either.
Another Modigliani film, “Modigilani”, starring Andy Garcia, premiered at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival to horrible reviews. Innovation Film Group released the title in eight theaters in 2005 and grossed $208,507 domestically. Depp’s last feature film was Minimata (Metascore 55), Andrew Levitas’ biopic about investigative photographer W. Eugene Smith. MGM dropped the title after its debut at the 2020 Berlinale and Goldwyn eventually released it in 2022; It barely grossed $1 million worldwide.
At least Dior believes in Depp. The fragrance house just signed a three-year deal with Dior worth a reported Over $20 million, the largest ever for a men’s perfume deal. As sales of the Dior Sauvage fragrance skyrocketed following its widely hyped trial, Depp’s fragrance payday surpassed both Robert Pattinson (Dior Homme) and Brad Pitt (Chanel #5).
However, perfume companies generally have no problems with production insurance. Posing for photos is one thing, but when Depp is involved, showing up on set on time can be quite another. His former agent Tracey Jacobs’ court testimony about his Marlon Brando-scale misconduct on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, when Depp was often late and needed his lines fed, was scathing.
Still, Hollywood might be ready to accept the talented actor with a penchant for offbeat roles – if he can behave. I’ve spoken to several producers and executives who advocated Depp’s return as that rare commodity, a bona fide movie star with a massive fan base that took decades to cultivate. Nonetheless, attention is required.
“People are willing to forgive him,” one talent agent wrote in an email. “Like Nic Cage and Robert Downey Jr., they were flawed people but lovable actors. Nic and Downey deserved their redemption and it looks like Johnny is about to do the same… He would have better chances of working in US films if people could be sure that his bad behavior on set won’t happen again. And I’m not sure at this point the studios are sure he’ll be more professional, but they’re probably curious. If he gets a good report on French film, that will help.”
“JD has box office value in both the US and ROW (the rest of the world) with young moviegoers and adults alike playing an odd character,” wrote a director’s agent. “When he’s doing something dramatic and real, that doesn’t usually seem to be his forte.”
An asset for Depp is his manager at hybrid management firm Range Media, CAA veteran Jack Whigham. (He) “really cares about him and is a great representative in general and for JD in particular,” the agent continued.
Another issue is Depp’s looks. “He would also have a better chance of working in the US if he looked a little better,” the talent agent wrote. “In the few photos I’ve seen of him lately, he looks bloated and unhealthy – he doesn’t look like a movie star to me. If he’s in top form and professional on the films he’s working on (on time, knows his lines, etc.), I think Hollywood will cast him again for the lead roles.”
“People have short memories,” wrote one literary agent. “I think it will be the same for Depp – unless he keeps getting out of hand during filming. That was a big disadvantage for him.”
Large studios remain taboo for the time being. “He’s going to be difficult for a studio to hire today,” wrote a studio production executive. “But it will definitely happen again if he does a good job and doesn’t do Peter O’Toole at work again!”
The same executive thinks it makes a difference when Depp works for respected filmmakers like Tim Burton, with whom Depp has worked eight times and received an Oscar nomination for Sweeney Todd. (He also received awards for the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, Curse of the Black Pearl, and Finding Never Land.) The executive said, “[He does]”consistently do great work with big-name directors….” .! The size of the part doesn’t matter!”
However, Depp has to accept a significant salary cut. “He’s a great actor, so I think he can be hired,” said a studio producer. “The question is what price. My gut says 2-4 (millions). And I’m sure streamers would let him co-host a series.”
“JD is an actor good enough to relaunch his career,” wrote screenwriter Larry Gross. “But because of his age, he’ll be more of a believable character actor than a lead man – he could be the sort of convincingly eccentric presence that a Christopher Walken, an Ian McKellen, or a Jason Robards had in their later years.”
Screenwriting consultant Nancy Nigrosh suggests that Depp “could find a small but crucial role in something noble (nobles = not based on a comic book or low-rent genre) that perfectly suited his adult bad-boy persona, as seen by someone.” , who can really carry his own luggage.”
Or he could end up at the end of her career like Joan Crawford, Submarine co-founder Josh Braun said over the phone. “She starred in ‘Trog’, it was her last film, one of the worst films ever made,” he said. “Nobody else would hire them. She was a B-movie queen.”
Perhaps most extraordinary of all, after all the lawsuits, abuse allegations, and production cost overruns, Depp’s fate remains in his own hands. In exile in Europe, he can shoot art films à la Woody Allen and Roman Polanski or land a lucrative Hollywood streaming deal or a series of exciting character roles for well-known directors. If that doesn’t happen, he has no one to blame but himself.
Additional reporting by Eric Kohn.