Johnny Depp is currently in the news perhaps more than any other time in his entire career, but not for reasons of acting. It actually feels almost unusual to find out that the 58-year-old actor has been announced to star in the upcoming film Jeanne Du Barry along with co-star/director Maïwenn. Deadline is reporting that Depp will play French monarch King Louis XV, while the director will star as the titular Jeanne Du Barry, the final mistress of the ruler before his death. This will be Johnny Depp’s first movie since 2020’s Minamata, and will be up for sale at Cannes as part of production company Wild Bunch’s latest crop of films. While the movie may be coming at an unusual time of the Dead Man star’s career, it is at least the first sign he may be beginning to reemerge into show business as an actor.
It must be said, having Johnny Depp star as Louis XV has some interesting connotations that can be speculated to be intentional by Maïwenn. Louis XV was known as “The Beloved” (or le Bien-Aimé) during his lifetime, but his popularity within France varied wildly. His reign (which lasted for nearly 60 years) is generally regarded by historians as a period of wild financial extravagance and dubiously successful international conflicts. In historical retrospect, he is generally thought to have allowed and/or encouraged extreme corruption within his government and helped set the conditions that eventually led to the French Revolution during the reign of his son Louis XVI. It is difficult not to draw some parallels to Johnny Depp as an immensely popular but controversial figure with well-known financial difficulties that have led to a downfall. But perhaps that is reading a little too much into a simple casting decision.
This will be the first time Johnny Depp has worked with Maïwenn, an acclaimed French filmmaker and director. She will star as Jeanne Du Barry, a very notable figure in French history. Du Barry was a commoner turned prostitute, who was eventually inducted into the French court, and became very influential in Louis XV’s decision-making. She also later came into notorious conflict with the last Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, upon her arrival to the court to marry Louis XVI. Du Barry has been a popular figure in the cultural imagination of France for centuries and has been portrayed in numerous films stretching all the way back to 1915’s DuBarry and more recently by Asia Argento in Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette.
The ongoing legal battle between Johnny Depp and his estranged former spouse Amber Heard will almost certainly be the most significant news about the former Pirates of the Caribbean star for quite some time. It will be interesting to see if the embattled actor will be able to reignite his career under the circumstances, none of which is particularly painting him nor Heard in a good light. But Cannes seems like a likely place for Johnny Depp to start trying to get his acting career back on track, so we will just have to see.