Johnny Depp returns to Cannes film festival amid controversy and protests

Johnny Depp's red carpet return to the Cannes film festival in France on its opening night has provoked a split reaction and an online campaign to stop the festival celebrating abusers.

Depp was there to promote the screening of Jeanne du Barry, his first film after his defamation trial with ex-wife Amber Heard concluded.

Prior to the film's screening, a social media campaign with the hashtag 'CannesYouNot' was launched, which attacked the Cannes film festival for "celebrating abusers for 76 years."

Posts supporting the campaign highlighted prominent presences at Cannes over the years by men including Depp, Roman Polanski, Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Gerard Depardieu and Luc Besson.

The post said: "If you support Cannes, you support predators," while another said Depp's return was a "slap in the face".

However, Depp's appearance at the opening night of the festival has seen throngs of his supporters take to the red carpet with posters screaming "Viva Johnny".

Variety magazine reported fans had begun gathering along the festival's Croisette from 10 in the morning in the hope of getting a selfie with Depp.

People magazine reported Depp, along with the film's cast, walked the carpet to The Clash song 'Should I Stay or Should I Go'.

Inside the cinema, he was given a standing ovation prior to the screening, in which he plays King Louis XV in his first film role since the trial ended and since he'd been dropped from the Fantastic Beasts saga and replaced by Mads Mikkelsen.

The Cannes festival head Thierry Frémaux claimed he didn't "know the image of Johnny Depp in the United States" after he was forced to defend his choice to screen the movie, Deadline reported.

"He is extraordinary in the film in a role which is difficult. I don't know why he was cast. You will have to ask  [director]Maïwenn her reasons for choosing him," Frémaux said.

"For the rest, I'm the last person to talk to about this because if there is one person in the world who is not interested in this very mediatized process, it's me. I am interested in Johnny Depp as an actor.”

French actress Maïwenn is directing the film and will star in the drama, which is inspired by the life of Jeanne du Barry, who was King Louis XV's last royal mistress at the Court of Versaille.

Du Barry became the King's favourite companion, but she was banished from Versailles after Louis' death in May 1774.

She ultimately died at the guillotine in December 1793.

It's Depp's first major film role since the tumultuous defamation trial against his ex-wife ended in June 2022.

A jury in the US ruled Heard defamed Depp in the six-week trial that featured explicit and graphic evidence, and testimony detailing how the former Hollywood couple's soured relationship.

The jury also ruled in favour of Heard in some aspects of her countersuit against Depp.

That followed a UK trial which ruled Depp had repeatedly assaulted Heard and put her in fear for her life.