CANNES, France, May 16, 2023 (BSS /AFP) - The Cannes Film Festival was set for a stormy start on Tuesday, with Johnny Depp making his comeback in the opening film, showing off his French skills as King Louis XV.
The 59-year-old's career has nosedived in Hollywood, despite his victory in a defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard last year that featured bitter domestic violence allegations.
But Depp has been gradually returning to work and will hit the red carpet for the opening night in Cannes with French period drama "Jeanne du Barry" about the 18th-century monarch who fell in love with a prostitute.
Festival director Thierry Fremaux told reporters he was "not interested" in Depp's trial, adding: "I am interested in Depp the actor."
Michael Douglas will also attend the opening ceremony to receive an honorary Palme d'Or.
The French Riviera festival, which runs until May 27, includes a slew of hot-ticket premieres, including "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" on Wednesday, the fifth and final outing for Harrison Ford as the whip-cracking archaeologist.
Saturday will see Martin Scorsese present his latest epic, "Killers of the Flower Moon", alongside stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.
That day also sees Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in indie favourite Todd Haynes's "May December".
It is among 21 films competing for the top prize Palme d'Or, by a record seven women directors.
Fremaux said increasing women's representation at the festival was a "fundamental question" but "I refuse congratulations, it is an evolution. We don't look at the gender, we select movies."
Several Palme laureates are back in competition, including Britain's two-time winner Ken Loach, Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda and Germany's Wim Wenders.
The jury is led by last year's winner, Sweden's Ruben Ostlund ("Triangle of Sadness"), and also includes Hollywood stars Brie Larson and Paul Dano.
Around a thousand police and security guards are in place for the festival, amid fears of protests linked to President Emmanuel Macron's unpopular pension reforms, with the CGT union even threatening to cut power.
- 'A lot of worries' -
Depp's "Jeanne du Barry" has reportedly yet to secure US distribution.
His dialogue in the film is kept to short phrases that help disguise his American accent.
Maiwenn, the French star who directs and plays the lead role, admitted she was worried about the impact of his legal woes.
"The film was shot last summer and he was coming out of his second trial," Maiwenn, who goes by a single name, told AFP last week.
"I had a lot of worries. I was wondering: 'what will his image become?'" she said.
But she faces her own controversies.
In March, a well-known French journalist, Edwy Plenel of Mediapart, lodged a criminal complaint against Maiwenn, accusing her of approaching him in a restaurant, grabbing him by the hair and spitting in his face.
She refused to discuss the "ongoing case" with AFP, but admitted the assault in an interview on French TV, without going into details.
Depp was axed from Harry Potter spin-off "Fantastic Beasts" following Heard's abuse allegations, but he is a long way from being "cancelled".
He has secured a record $20 million deal to remain the face of Dior fragrance, according to Variety last week.
He is also set to direct Al Pacino in a biopic of artist Amedeo Modigliani later this year.