Amber Heard supporters launch Cannes protest as Johnny Depp’s red carpet return met with mixed welcome

Johnny Depp has made his red carpet return at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, less than one year since his highly publicised defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard reached a verdict. While he was met with uproarious applause from fans on the red carpet, it appears some have not yet forgotten about his allegations of abuse.

On Tuesday 16 May, the 59-year-old actor walked the red carpet ahead of the Cannes Film Festival premiere of Jeanne du Barry. The film, which opened the 76th annual event, marked Depp’s first lead role since he won last year’s defamation case against Heard.

In videos shared to social media, Depp was seen arriving at the French film festival with his co-star and the film’s director, Maïwenn. He stopped to take photos and sign autographs for fans, as festival-goers were reportedly heard shouting “Johnny!” at the actor. “It’s so good to see him back!!!” said one person on Twitter, while another fan tweeted: “So deserved”.

Following the premiere of the French-language film, Depp was seen getting visibly emotional as he received a seven-minute standing ovation.

While Depp has made his so-called comeback, legions of Amber Heard supporters took to social media to protest the Pirates of the Caribbean star’s slow return to the spotlight – and the festival that’s supporting him.

Prior to the Cannes Film Festival opening, fans of Heard launched an online campaign with the hashtag #CannesYouNot to call out both the festival and Depp, whom Heard accused of verbally and physically abusing her throughout their marriage.

Eve Barlow, journalist and friend of Heard, initially shared the #CannesYouNot hashtag to Instagram earlier this week, with a post condemning the film festival for supporting Depp’s film, Jeanne du Barry.

The #CannesYouNot campaign has also spread throughout Twitter, as Heard supporter and owner of the @LeaveHeardAlone Twitter account told Variety: “The Depp v Heard trial became the vehicle through which the backlash against the #MeToo movement went viral. Hollywood industries seem to be riding that backlash to return to the status quo.

“To open your festival with Johnny Depp? To be frank, it feels like a slap in the face.”

In response to the growing outrage from #CannesYouNot, film festival chief Thierry Frémaux heavily rejected claims made by Barlow – and French actor Adèle Haenel, who recently denounced the festival for its alleged “complacency toward sexual aggressors” – and defended the decision to have Depp’s movie Jeanne Du Barry open the festival.

“If you thought that it’s a festival for rapists, you wouldn’t be here listening to me, you would not be complaining that you can’t get tickets to get into screenings,” he said during a press conference on Monday.

“I don’t know about the image of Johnny Depp in the US. To tell you the truth, in my life, I only have one rule, it’s the freedom of thinking, and the freedom of speech and acting within a legal framework,” Frémaux added. “If Johnny Depp had been banned from acting in a film, or the film was banned we wouldn’t be here talking about it. So we saw Maïwenn film and it could have been in competition. She would have been the eighth female director.”

Also on Tuesday, actor Brie Larson was singled out by a member of the press to share her thoughts on Depp’s film opening the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. When the Captain Marvel star – who is a juror for this year’s festival in France – was asked how she “felt about Depp’s film opening the festival” and if she planned on seeing it, she hinted towards her conflicted feelings about the film.

Taken aback, the Marvel actor responded: “You’re asking me that? I’m sorry, I don’t understand the correlation or why me specifically.”

The journalist acknowledged Larson’s support for the Times Up movement, a non-profit organisation formed to support victims of sexual harassment and amplify female voices in the film and TV industry.

“Understood,” Larson said. “Well, you’ll see, I guess, if I see it, and I don’t know how I’ll feel about it if I do.”

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard were married from 2015 to 2017. Last June, the Edward Scissorhands actor sued his ex-wife for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in the Washington Post that implied she was a victim of domestic abuse. Though she did not name Depp, he claimed her allegations have made it difficult for the actor to land movie roles.

The jury ultimately determined Heard defamed Depp on all three counts and awarded him $10m (£8.2m) in compensatory damages and $5m (£4.1m) in punitive damages. The Aquaman star was awarded $2m (£1.6m) in compensatory damages. Throughout the six-week trial, Heard was subjected to intense social media scrutiny from Depp fans.

Heard then filed a notice of appeal one month after the initial verdict, with her attorney citing “errors” made by the court. However, she decided to withdraw the appeal last December, calling the decision to settle with Depp “very difficult”, and something that had required “a great deal of deliberation”.

The Independent has contacted Cannes Film Festival for comment.