Following 2020’s Minamata, Johnny Depp will soon return with a French-led Netflix production in 2023. Is this just innocent filmmaking, however, or is there something darker at work under the surface?
Johnny Depp’s new upcoming role as the controversial King Louis XV was just teased with the first look from Jeanne du Barry AKA La Favorite, an upcoming film that, amongst other things, brings Depp back into the world of cinema after the infamous defamation trial against Amber Heard.
Pictured above, the role gives Depp his first feature film acting credit in nearly three years, following the American photojournalist biopic, Minamata. With many of his acting gigs falling through after becoming a #metoo target, Depp’s first film after winning his trial holds a great deal of significance for abuse victims and perpetrators within the film industry and serves as a comeback that many fans are eager to see.
Before we get to the money-makers financing the film, let’s take a closer look at the relatively obscure all-French team working on the film.
First up, there’s Maïwenn. The Cannes-favourite director-actress has played a key role behind many of the country’s big cinematic achievements of the last couple of decades and has been noted for her iconic film motifs, particularly breaking the fourth wall, which she does regularly in her directorial projects.
Backing up production duties are Pascal Caucheteux and Gregoire Sorlat, the two filmmakers behind Why Not Productions. The Paris production house, founded in 1990 with a razor-focused approach towards auteur and arthouse cinema, has a long legacy of unique and wholly original works — even touching upon Indian social issues with 2015’s Palme d’Or winner, Dheepan.
Behind all of this is the financial backing of none other than Netflix, which certainly warrants a discussion given the public controversy surrounding Depp.
On the surface of things, hiring Depp seems like a simple enough decision — his inclusion in the film will instantly turn it viral, and he speaks French fluently; occasionally touching on the language in roles while using it at French press conferences. Just check out this Rum Diaries event clip — taken back when he was first introduced to Amber Heard:
While Depp’s courtroom win seems to have turned back the clock on a lot of his abuse allegations, the fact still remains that many are still aware of the problematic, even violent behaviour the actor has demonstrated — perhaps echoed in the recent ‘unlikening’ of his post-victory Instagram message, and incriminating material from unsealed court documents.
Netflix’s track record with similar cases is, unfortunately, somewhat murky. The most high-profile one they’ve had to contend with was the Kevin Spacey allegations that surfaced in the late 2010s. During this time, a former HR director also stepped up to speak against the streaming giant’s work culture, which allegedly tolerated “harassment and discrimination” — a case that was quickly swept under the rug with a $1.5 million settlement.
The problem is that Netflix only bit the bullet with Spacey after it became unprofitable to continue their association with the actor, who was at the helm of House of Cards’ success for five seasons. Numerous accounts of Spacey’s behaviour were initiated when BuzzFeed News published an article about accusations of sexual advances toward then-14-year-old Anthony Rapp in 1985. This spurred off a host of revelations regarding Spacey’s past abuse and misconduct — that were largely ignored by Netflix until 2017.
In the meantime, Netflix allowed Spacey to have his way on set, which included several counts of toxic behaviour including non-consensual touching, crude comments, and targeted harassment. While Spacey is now $31 million down in favour of the related allegations, Netflix seemed to have washed their hands clean of the issue despite allowing it to foster in the first place.
“Bullshit. Utter bullshit. 100%,” said one source to Buzzfeed after being asked whether the show’s directors and producers had not known about Spacey’s incidents. Reportedly, the crew had production meetings regarding Spacey’s behaviour — meetings that largely went nowhere, and were not addressed in Netflix’s own statement, which claimed ignorance of the facts.
Johnny Depp’s case is certainly a bit different. So far, the PR spin on his victory has worked largely in his favour, although many remain sceptical of the actor’s innocence. What’s certain is that while Disney may continue to hold their cards close, Netflix has no qualms hiring someone with a well-documented history of abuse and unwelcome behaviour — and is willing to sacrifice serious capital to help Depp on his return to the world of filmmaking.
For Maïwenn, there’s a certain tragic irony to her association with Depp in this film. The actress was famously groomed by director Luc Besson at the age of 15 and gave birth to his daughter at 16. Besson’s career was famously marked by a long series of abuse and misconduct allegations. He similarly got away with things and would go on to be directly compared to Depp during the height of Depp’s infamy after Heard’s famous op-ed piece central to the 2022 trial.
The movie is set to be shot this summer over three months on locations including the Versailles castle, according to Figaro.
Lead Image: Netflix