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Johnny Depp Returns to the Big Screen at Cannes Film Festival as Louis XV

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Johnny Depp will open this year’s Cannes Film Festival in his French-language portrayal of King Louis XV, the actor’s first appearance in movie theatres since his widely followed defamation trial with his ex-wife last year.

Jeanne du Barry, a film about the king’s famous mistress, will kick off the festival, which opens Tuesday and will run for two weeks in the South of France. The film, which got some backing from streaming giant Netflix, is directed by Maiwenn Le Besco, who also plays Madame du Barry, the famous mistress of the 18th-century French king.

Cannes is among the world’s most glamorous film festivals, attracting movie stars, billionaires, industry executives, paparazzi, and fans to the French Riviera to attend premieres and haggle for worldwide movie rights at the concurrent film market.

Twenty-one films will compete this year to win the Palme d’Or, the festival’s highest award, with entries stretching from Brazil to Senegal, and featuring directors including Wes Anderson, Wim Wenders and Ken Loach. Screenings of films not in line for the top prize include Jeanne du Barry as well as Walt Disney‘s upcoming Indiana Jones and Martin Scorsese‘s Killers of the Flower Moon, produced by Apple.

Jeanne du Barry, to be released in French cinemas on Tuesday, was produced by Paris-based Why Not Productions on a budget of EUR 20.6 million ($22.4 million, or roughly Rs. 185 crore) according to the cinefinance.info database. The financing plan shows that Netflix paid EUR 3 million (about Rs. 25 crore) to stream the film. It is due to be streamed on Netflix in France starting next year.

It’s Depp’s first cinema role since the live-streamed and widely followed defamation trial last year pitted him against his ex-wife Amber Heard, following accusations of domestic violence. The jury awarded Depp $10 million (about Rs. 82 crore) in compensatory damages, and both sides dismissed their appeals in December to settle the dispute.

Early reviews of the film, which was partly shot in the Versailles Palace, were mixed, describing it as a lavish period piece. A critic from Le Figaro described Depp as “struggling to hide his American accent” in the film. “He sometimes seems to wonder if he hasn’t woken up in the middle of a costume party in a New York club,” the reviewer wrote.

Depp was likely paid EUR 320,000 (about Rs. 2.8 crore) for acting in the film, according to the film database, a fraction of what he made for starring in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The actor hasn’t signed for a new Hollywood project since the trial, but he recently renewed a deal to be the image of the Dior perfume for a record $20 million (about Rs. 165 crore), according to Variety.

Le Besco said she asked Depp to play the part before the trial and didn’t hesitate to keep him for the role afterwards. She has previously directed critically acclaimed films such as Polisse and Mon Roi, which both won awards at Cannes.

During a press conference on Monday, the head of the festival, Thierry Frémaux, said he was only interested in Depp as an actor, whom he found “extraordinary” in the part. Depp’s next cinema project will see him direct and co-produce Modi, a biopic of Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani starring Al Pacino to be shot this fall in Budapest, according to Deadline.

A spokesperson for Depp declined to comment further on the role.

This year, the film festival could be disrupted by protests over a pension reform passed by Emmanuel Macron’s government, with one of the leading unions in the country threatening to cut the electricity to interrupt the festival.

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