Johnny Depp’s comeback movie is ‘brilliant move’ but Hollywood future ‘uncertain’: expert

Johnny Depp’s comeback movie is ‘brilliant move’ but Hollywood future ‘uncertain’: expert

Johnny Depp is back on the big screen after emerging victorious in his explosive court battle with his ex-wife Amber Heard.

The 60-year-old actor is starring opposite French actress and director Maïwenn in the new French-language period romance “Jeanne du Barry,” which premiered on Thursday. The film’s limited theatrical run ends on Monday, but the movie will be available to stream on Apple TV+ at a future date.

Though Depp won his 2022 defamation trial against the 38-year-old actress, he was shunned by Hollywood for years due to Heard’s allegations that he physically and emotionally abused her. Brand expert Doug Eldridge shared his thoughts with Fox News Digital on Depp’s return and his future in the industry.

“From a strategic standpoint, I think it’s a brilliant move. It’s uncertain how bright his box office star shines right now, after being dragged through the defamation mud in front of the entire country,” Eldridge said.

Johnny Depp made his return to the big-screen in “Madame Du Barry.” (Stéphanie Branchu/Why Not Productions)

“Jeanne Du Barry” follows the story of the real-life Jeanne Du Barry (Maïwenn), an illegitimate commoner who becomes a courtesan and rises through the ranks of French society in the 18th century. Jeanne eventually catches the eye of King Louis XV (Depp), who makes her his chief royal mistress.


All the dialogue in “Madame Du Barry” is in French with English subtitles. Depp learned to speak French during his 14-year relationship with French actress Vanessa Paradis, with whom he shares two children.

Though the “Edward Scissorhands” star received second billing in the movie, the story’s central focus is on Maïwenn’s character, while Depp appears as a supporting actor. Eldridge pointed out that “Jeanne Du Barry” as Depp’s comeback vehicle may not propel him back to his previous star status.

maiwenn as jeanne du barry walking into french court

Johnny Depp plays the supporting role of King Louis XV, while director Maïwenn’s character is the central focus. (Stéphanie Branchu/Why Not Productions)

“Instead of attaching him to a leading role in a big budget movie — which brings high expectations with it — Depp is re-entering the pool from the shallow end, with a supporting role in a period piece,” Eldridge said. “The expected box office is small and Depp’s role is already being touted as the standout performance of the film. 

“More than that, Depp is choosing to do it his way,” he added. “As Sinatra famously sang “…and through it all, when there were doubts, I ate it up and spit it out. The record shows, I took the blows, and did it my way.”

Depp’s Hollywood star began to fall in 2016, when Heard, to whom he was married for less than two years, filed for divorce from the actor and accused him of abuse. Depp denied the accusations, and their divorce was finalized in 2017.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard on red carpet

Johnny Depp’s career in Hollywood tanked after Amber Heard accused him of domestic violence. (AP)

However, Heard stood by her allegations, penning a 2018 op-ed in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” 

That same year, Depp sued a U.K. newspaper for libel and lost. Warner Bros. then asked him to resign from his role as Gellert Grindelwald in “Fantastic Beasts” franchise.

After losing his U.K. case, Depp’s career came to an abrupt halt. Prior to “Jeanne Du Barry,” his last film role was in the 2020 independent film “Minamata,” which was completed before the U.K. trial.

Maïwenn had cast Depp in “Jeanne Du Barry” in the winter of 2019. In a recent interview with The Independent, Maïwenn recalled that Depp’s British assistant Stephen Deuters emailed her a week after the actor lost his case and asked her if she still wanted him to star in the film. She told Deuters that she was not concerned with Depp’s “private life” and asked if he still wanted to participate in the project.

“Stephen answered in 30 seconds,” Maïwenn said. 

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp squared off in a Virginia courtroom this summer during defamation trial

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard gave explosive testimony during their June 2022 trial. (Getty Images)

After Depp and Heard sued each other for defamation in the U.S., the case was heard by a Virginia court in April 2022. During their bombshell, televised six-week trial, Depp and Heard both testified, lobbing shocking allegations of physical and sexual abuse against each other. 

During the trial, Depp said he was also fired from the sixth installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. He stated that Disney cut ties with him after Heard’s op-ed was published.

On June 1, 2022, the jury ruled largely in Depp’s favor, as they found Heard liable on all three counts of defamation, while Depp was determined to be liable for one count of defamation. Heard was ordered to pay Depp $10 million in damages, and Depp was to pay his former spouse $2 million. 

Johnny Depp smiles at fans at courthouse

Johnny Depp won the trial after the jury ruled largely in his favor. (REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo)

While Depp was vindicated in court by the verdict, Eldridge noted that Depp’s reputation among the public and in Hollywood might not be easily salvaged.

“By winning his defamation case against his ex, Depp planted a flag, not only for himself, but for men who have been wrongly accused across the country,” Eldridge added. “In so doing, he galvanized an army of new fans—both men and women—who were inspired by his bravery and willingness to confront and combat the false allegations made against him.”

“Unfortunately, for Depp and others who are wrongly accused, the Court of Public Opinion renders a verdict by allegation, not evidence, and the blowback has a calculable impact in terms of dollars and cents.”

Johnny Depp red carpet

Johnny Depp’s new film, “Jeanne du Barry,” opened the Cannes Film Festival. (Vianney Le Caer)

Eldridge pointed to another remark that the actor made in Cannes about his big-screen return.

“Depp might’ve had the best soundbite regarding the comeback process, during a press event in Cannes: ‘I keep wondering about the word ‘comeback’ because I didn’t go anywhere,’ It’s sad because it’s true.”

“Depp’s vindication came in the courtroom, he doesn’t need validation,” Eldridge added. “That said, the only thing worse than being accused of something you didn’t do, is being forced to pay for the sins that others have actually committed against you. It’s a paradoxical state of affairs, but one that Depp has had to navigate nonetheless.”

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp previously starred as Captain Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Carribbean” franchise but was fired from the sixth installment. (AP Images)

Eldridge pointed to Depp’s firing from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise despite playing the main character Captain Jack Sparrow. 

“The films grossed a staggering $​​1.046 billion for Disney, to which Depp was the driving force,” he said. “To wit, he earned an estimated $300 million from the franchise. Not only was he deprived of subsequent installments in Pirates, he became an unwitting, innocent pariah among Hollywood decision-makers.”

Production on “Jeanne Du Barry” began one month after the trial, and the film was selected to open the 76th Annual Cannes Film Festival, held in May 2023. Depp made his return to the spotlight official when he attended the film’s world premiere.

johnny depp posing as king louis xv in madame du barry

“Jeanne Du Barry” is a French language period romance set in the 18th century. (Stéphanie Branchu/Why Not Productions)

During a press conference to promote the film, Depp opened up about how he felt he was treated by Hollywood amid his yearslong legal battle with Heard.

“Did I feel boycotted by Hollywood? Well, you’d have to not have a pulse to feel at that point like this was all just a weird joke,” he said, per Variety.

“Of course, when you’re asked to resign from a film you’re doing because of something that’s merely a bunch of vowels and consonants floating in the air, yes, you feel boycotted,” he added, referring to losing his role in “Fantastic Beasts.”

“Do I feel boycotted now? No, not at all,” Depp continued. “But I don’t feel boycotted because I don’t think about Hollywood. I don’t feel much further need for Hollywood.”

maiwenn leaning her head on johnnys shoulder in a scene

Maïwenn made comments about Johnny Depp that she later clarified. (Stéphanie Branchu/Why Not Productions)

Last month, Maïwenn made headlines after the publication of an interview with The Independent, in which the director said that the “Jeanne Du Barry” crew were “afraid” of Depp during filming.

“I have to be honest. It’s difficult to shoot with him… all the crew were scared because he has a different kind of humour, and we didn’t know if he was going to be on time, or if he was going to be OK to say his lines… I mean, even if he was there on set, on time, the crew were afraid of him,” Maïwenn said. 

In a statement to Variety, Maïwenn clarified her remarks, saying that she felt “betrayed” by how her comments had been characterized in the article.


“When I made a remark about Johnny being ‘scary,’ I was talking about his charisma, his notoriety, his star status, etc,” Maïwenn wrote.

“I would like to make things very clear: Johnny is ‘scary’ in the sense that his charisma and his status as “king” is impressive,” she continued. “I should have used the word ‘impressive’ if I had known [the writer] would use my words in such a malicious way.”

maiwenn and johnny embracing in scene

The two play lovers in the movie. (Stéphanie Branchu/Why Not Productions)

In her interview with The Independent, Maïwenn claimed that Depp was often late to set and detailed clashes that she had with the actor during production. 

Maïwenn told the outlet that Depp would often arrive with rewritten versions of the script, which she wrote along with Teddy Lussi-Modeste and Nicolas Livecchi. 

She recalled one instance in which “Johnny came with a new version of the script and I wasn’t happy with it. It didn’t work… So I shot it without making the changes he wanted… which he took as an insult.”

Maïwenn also explained that she had to cut some of Depp’s dialogue after filming started because his French accent “wasn’t perfect.”

“There was no time for rehearsals,” she said. “I asked for time but, for whatever reason, he wasn’t available… He had a coach, but he couldn’t work with her beforehand. So. OK. I discovered his accent wasn’t perfect. So a few times I decided to cut his lines. But that also happened with the French actors. It happens!”


Maïwenn recalled that she and Depp got along “famously” ahead of production, but their relationship deteriorated during filming and has not been the same since.

“There’s been no normal relationship since the shoot,” she said. “Johnny for me is a huge genius, but he’s in another world. I cannot communicate with him.”

maiwenn and johnny depp at jeanne du barry red carpet

Despite having arguments with Johnny Depp on set, Maïwenn said the actor is a “genius.” (Dave Benett/WireImage))

In her statement to Variety, Maïwenn admitted there was discord between herself and Depp but reiterated her respect for him.

“I want to be very clear: Johnny Depp is a huge actor. One of the greatest,” Maïwenn said. “He reminded me a lot of [Marlon] Brando – his genius and sufferings, his generosity and paradoxes. Even though we argued several times on set, he’s someone I totally respect and admire, and it’s important for me to correct my own narrative because I feel really betrayed by this interview.” 

“Madame Du Barry” premiered in France last May and became a box office success. At the film’s premiere in the U.K. last month, Depp revealed that he initially did not believe that he was right for the role of King Louis XV due to his upbringing in Owensburg, Kentucky.

He also praised Maïwenn for believing in him and for her perseverance in making “Jeanne Du Barry.” Maïwenn previously said that she had wanted to direct a film about Jeanne Du Barry since 2006.

“I feel very lucky to have been [offered the role] – strangely, oddly, perversely lucky,” Depp said, according to Variety. “Because when Maïwenn and I first actually met and talked about the notion of me doing the film and playing Louis XV, the King of France — see that’s when instantly what happens in your brain is you instantly go back to Kentucky, where, like, everything is fried. So you realize that you’ve come from the bellybutton of nowhere, and suddenly you end up playing the King of France.”

“It made no sense to me, I tried to talk her out of it,” he continued. “But she wasn’t hearing it, and she had great courage to take me into her cast. Whatever we did, whatever we experienced, I think, and I hope you’ll find it was well worth the agony of this kid trying to make a film for that length of time.”

johnny depp blindfolded as king louis xv

Brand expert Doug Eldridge said Johnny Depp’s talent is undeniable. (Stéphanie Branchu/Why Not Productions)

Despite the damage to Depp’s reputation, Eldridge noted that his talent is undeniable.

“Depp is one of the most underrated, yet deeply talented actors of this generation. With roles ranging from ‘Platoon,’ to ‘Edward Scissorhands,’ to ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,’ to ‘Wonka, to Jack Sparrow, to smaller, indie films like ’Jeanne du Barry,’ his range is almost immeasurable. 

“In each role, he brings a perfectly tuned interpretation of the character—so much so, that when you look back, you can’t imagine anyone else playing that role, other than Depp,” he added.

“That is the mark of talent. Depp has depth. Period.”


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