“Johnny! Johnny!! Johnny!!! Johnny Depp!!!!” The celebrity dutifully signed autographs for his followers on the red carpet for the premiere of Jeanne du Barry, director Maiwenn’s Cannes Film Festival opener.
And let’s call him that “c” word, because to call him an actor in the true sense of the profession is an insult to thespians who toil on stage and screen for little gain. Judi Dench lamented once that, in the UK at least, roughly 5 percent of the actors make big bucks. The rest live hand-to-mouth, often doing two, three or more jobs to make ends meet.
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So forgive me if I don’t jump up and down with glee at the sight of Johnny Depp and his Louis XV in Jeanne du Barry.
Once up a time he was the bee’s knees; he had a certain swagger about him. But of late, he seems to have squandered all that at the altar of celebrity.
What exactly is he famous for now?!
The muted response to Jeanne du Barry at the Palais on Tuesday night confirmed — for me, anyway — that Depp has thrown away his gifts. His bloated, celebrity lifestyle comes first. Acting? Forget about it. It’s a far-away country.
Yeah, folk in the orchestra seats were on their feet clapping and cheering, but they do that almost on autopilot. Palais audiences think that’s the way to behave. Up in the boondocks, in the knee-grazing seats, was a more discerning audience. Many leapt outta their seats the minute the end credits rolled and scooted off into the night, relieved that they didn’t have to pretend and cheer for the sake of it.
Genuine applause comes in waves; you feel its warm embrace.
The ovation Tuesday night was phoney.
The real stuff sends shivers down the back of your neck.
Compare and contrast Johnny!Johnny!! Depp with Michael Douglas. The dude’s a star. More important, Mr. Douglas is an actor too.
There’s something else.
Let’s call it class.
Douglas has old-school style and class, and I think it’s not an act. He hits his marks, and he shows up on time. He’s generous as well.
When he walked into the Diner d’Ouverture, three levels underground in the Carlton Hotel’s swanky ballroom, with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones and their daughter, Carys, there was a gasp. A proper star was in the room.
I did not catch sight of Johnny!Johnny!! Depp at the dinner. However, Thierry Fremaux assured me that he was there. “He came and he was there for a minute to say hello. Perhaps he had another appointment,” Fremaux explained.
Well, it was a darn quick “hello” ‘cause he’d scarpered by the time I walked from the Palais to the Carlton.
Answering my own question here: What’s Johnny!Johnny!! Depp famous for? People like a “bad boy,” don’t they?
And the “bad boys” are bad because the women in their life have made them behave badly, so the fans of these “bad boys” claim. Such misogynistic nonsense never sat well with me.
Douglas received an honorary Palme d’Or during the opening ceremony, and he was the personification of Hollywood charm. Not the cloying kinda charm. The warm kinda charm.
He’s taking a little break now, having spent eight months shooting the eight-part Apple limited series Franklin in Paris.
He portrays Benjamin Franklin, and he was most enthusiastic about his fellow cast members. Super actors such as Eddie Marsan and Daniel Mays.
Douglas reckoned Franklin will be on Apple TV+ either at the end of this year or early in 2024.
He was high on Mays, having heard what a hit the Brit actor is as Nathan Detroit in Nicholas Hytner’s brilliant production of Guys and Dolls at the Bridge Theatre in London.
“He was debating whether to do it or not, and I said it’s not to be turned down,” Douglas told me. “I’ve heard it’s really good.”
He and Zeta-Jones are “desperate” to see it.
“We were going the other week, but we couldn’t make it,” Zeta Jones shared. “I love Danny Mays, he’ll be amazing in that role.”
“But we’ll definitely be going. My roots are in musical theater,” she reminded me. Although I don’t need reminding that I saw her step up from the chorus line to play Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street at the Drury Lane when the actor in that part was sick.
The rest is showbiz history.
STEVE MCQUEEN’S POWER
Steve McQueen introduced his four-hour documentary Occupied City in the Debussy on Wednesday morning.
I knew I wanted to see it, but Matt Carey, my documentary editor Deadline colleague, quietly insisted that I should not miss it.
The city that’s occupied is Amsterdam in WWII by the Nazis.
McQueen doesn’t employ historical footage. The film’s shot in modern-day Amsterdam, and his cameras take us to many addresses in the city as a calm narrator tells what took place there. The horrors are such that you don’t need to see documentary footage that tells you how to feel. McQueen has faith in us. Your imagination takes over.
For instance, when we’re told that a teenage boy is still on the streets two minutes after curfew, you’re fearful of what might happen to him. And when you’re calmly told the outcome, it’s impossible — for me, anyway — to shake off the image I have of that youth in my head. It could’ve been your son, my son…
Yet we did not see the boy. We were told very simple facts about him. The rest was up to us. That’s the genius of McQueen, his film and the sheer power of movies when they’re as good as this.
What’s scary, though, is that the past — the past that we don’t like to dwell on — is upon us again. The clouds are darkening, and McQueen offers us a warning. But he offers hope too.
The hope is that we must pay attention to what’s around us.
Bravo to McQueen and Bianca Stigter, his wife, for taking it on. And more bravos to A24, Film4, 20th Century Studios, Family Affair Films, Lammas Park and New Regency Productions for their vital roles in this production.
HELEN MIRREN GOES ALL ROCK ‘N’ ROLL WITH BLUE TRESSES
How does a gent approach a Dame commander of the United Kingdom about her hair?
Dame Helen Mirren’s coiffure was a shade of blue.
Was it an accident? No, no, the Oscar winner scolded, warmly.
“It was my idea for the blue hair,” she explained. The colouring was her homage to Jeanne du Barry and the occasion of the opening of the 76th Cannes Film Festival.
“It’s a modern twist on the 18th century, so I’m rocking the Louis XV hair, or a modern version of it.”
Mirren told me that the “incredible team” at L’Oreal Paris transformed her.
A nice bloke called Stefan emptied a bag of blue hairpieces. “They dyed my hair blue and wove the pieces in it and it was done in 30 minutes,” she said. “They’re fantastic.”
Daniel, my hair bloke at Cuts in Soho, shaves me down to the scalp every Monday or Saturday, when I’m in London, and he’s done in less than five minutes. I want it known, vain git that I am, that I do not dye any of the hair that I have left on my head. Enough about me.
Mirren said that she’s preparing for a second season of 1923, playing the formidable Cara Dutton, who has the scope of a character out of Shakespeare. “I hope so — I hope she turns out to be Shakespearean,” Mirren said. And she knows of what she speaks, having perfected her art during several seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company early in her career.
Speaking of which: ”I wouldn’t mind doing theater again in London, it’s at the back of my mind,” she said. “Probably a new piece, I would think.”
It was getting late, was well into the early hours by now, so I asked Mirren’s husband Taylor Hackford if he would use my camera and oblige me by taking a photo of his wife to go with this column. He duly obliged for which I’m grateful. He gave Dame Helen photo approval.
Here’s how she looked on the red carpet:
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