“Jeanne du Barry,” the much-discussed Cannes opening night film featuring Johnny Depp as Louis XV, has been acquired for North American distribution. Vertical grabbed rights to the Maïwenn-directed drama, which stars the writer/director as Jeanne Vaubernier. Vaubernier was a working-class woman in 18th Century France who rose in the social ranks and became King Louis XV’s lover.
The co-writers are Teddy Lussi-Modeste and Nicolas Livecchi and the film’s producers are Pascal Caucheteux and Grégoire Sorlat. The production companies are Why Not Productions, France 2 Cinéma, France 3 Cinéma, La Petite Reine, Impala Productions, Les Films de Batna, In.2 Film, and Les Films du Fleuve. Below-the-line talent on the film includes cinematographer Laurent Dailland, editor Laure Gardette, production designer Angelo Zamparutti, costume designer Jürgen Doering, and composer Stephen Warbeck.
“’Jeanne du Barry’ was by far the most talked about film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival,” noted Vertical Partner Peter Jarowey. “We are thrilled to have come out on top of the competitive bidding war for the domestic rights to Maïwenn’s [visually] stunning piece of cinematic art showcasing Johnny Depp’s return to the big screen. With Johnny’s huge appeal, we feel moviegoers that may not typically seek out foreign films just might turn out for this one.”
Depp said at Cannes he felt boycotted by Hollywood in the wake of domestic violence accusations from his ex-wife Amber Heard.
“Did I feel boycotted by Hollywood?” he asked. “Well, you have to not have a pulse at that point to feel like, ‘No, none of this is happening, this is just kind of a weird joke, you’ve been asleep for 35 years.’ Of course, when you’re asked to resign from a film that you’re doing because of something that is merely a bunch of vowels and consonants floating in the air, yeah, you feel a bit boycotted.”
The film marks the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor’s first major leading role following the legal battles with Heard. A jury found both parties responsible for separate instances of defamation in June, but awarded Depp $15 million (reduced to $10.4 million by state law), with Heard winning a $2 million judgment.
The film earned mixed reviews at last month’s Cannes Film Festival (53% fresh with an average 4.9/10 critic score on Rotten Tomatoes), where TheWrap’s Steve Pond argued that the movie didn’t live up to the pre-screening discourse. The premiere was greeted with a seven-minute standing ovation and marked Depp’s first starring role since “City of Lies” in early 2021 (following a 2018 production) and “Minamata” in early 2022. The $22 million-budgeted picture has thus far earned $4.1 million in France, courtesy of distributor Le Pacte, in its first two weeks.
Jarowey and Senior Vice President of Acquisitions Tony Piantedosi negotiated the deal on behalf of Vertical; CAA Media Finance and Goodfellas negotiated on behalf of the filmmakers. Represented in international markets by Goodfellas (formerly Wild Bunch International), “Jeanne du Barry” was produced by Why Not. The film was acquired by Netflix for second window rights in France only and received financing from Red Sea Film Foundation.
Vertical is no stranger to theatrical controversy. In 2018, they released John Travolta’s “Gotti,” whose marketers tried to position the film’s critical pans as an us versus them culture war. Later that year, they released “Billionaire Boys Club,” which contained the first high-profile performance from Kevin Spacey – it was filmed in 2015 — since he had been accused in late 2017 of sexual assault. If history follows suit, “Jeanne du Barry” will inspire media coverage and online discourse disproportionate to its consumer reaction.