Johnny Depp’s first major film since winning a lurid and contentious defamation trial last year — a costume drama in which he plays King Louis XV of France — will open the Cannes Film Festival in May, the festival announced on Wednesday.
Depp filmed the period drama, “Jeanne du Barry,” shortly after the trial, in which the jury found that his ex-wife Amber Heard had defamed him when she described herself in a 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” During six weeks of testimony, which riveted the nation, he and Heard battled over her allegations that he had physically and sexually abused her. Heard initially appealed the verdict, but then announced that she intended to settle the dispute.
Since Depp’s victory in court, he has tiptoed back into the public eye, appearing in a fashion show backed by Rihanna and at the MTV Video Music Awards; he also started a TikTok account. But the Cannes premiere is the actor’s first public embrace by the film industry since the trial, where he denied Heard’s allegations of physical and sexual abuse and tried to portray her as the aggressor in the relationship.
“Jeanne du Barry” is directed by and stars the French actress and filmmaker Maïwenn, who plays the title character, a working-class woman and courtesan who becomes the favorite of the king. Maïwenn’s film “Polisse” won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2011.
Her new film will premiere on May 16, after the festival’s opening ceremony, and will debut in French movie theaters on the same day. Fifteen months after its theatrical release, Netflix will stream the movie on its service only in France.
Depp, 59, had also appealed a narrow part of the jury’s decision in the defamation case, in which they held him liable for a defamatory statement that his lawyer had made about Heard. His lawyers said last year that Heard had agreed to pay $1 million to end the case, far less than what the jury in Virginia had initially called on her to pay.
His victory in the trial surprised some legal observers, because a judge in Britain had ruled in an earlier case that there was evidence that Depp had assaulted Heard. The British ruling came in a libel suit that Depp had filed after The Sun, a tabloid newspaper, called him a “wife beater” in a headline. The judge in that case ruled that the defendants had shown that what they published was “substantially true.”
Nicole Sperling contributed reporting.