Skip to main content

As Always, Cannes Remains a Safe Space For Terrible Men

Also terrible women!

Thierry Fremaux welcomes Johnny Depp on a red carpet.

The film industry has massive issues when it comes to inequality and abuse. This is well documented and yet those who abuse their power still get celebrated. Whether it is by those on social media who refuse to believe victims, or within the industry itself, Hollywood has a massive problem.

Cannes, one of the film world’s biggest events, is no exception. (In fact, it’s frequently been a central player in these issues.) Despite the high-profile rise of the Me Too movement within the entertainment industry, and a more recent letter signed by Cannes actors and actresses, published in the French publication Liberation titled ‘Cannes You Not’, horrible men (and some women, too) are still held in high esteem at Cannes and elsewhere.

Johnny Depp and his journalist-assaulting, “anti-Me Too” director Maïwenn

This year’s festival is dominated by the return of Johnny Depp to the big screen in Jeanne du Barry. He received a seven-minute standing ovation, and honestly, I think that speaks for itself.

But Depp isn’t the only issue. Both the film’s director, Maïwenn, and Cannes’ director, Thierry Frémaux, have garnered their own backlash.

A journalist is suing Maïwenn after she admitted to assault, having spit on him at a restaurant. Though the reasons are unknown, it could be because the journalist, Edwy Plene, published a report on her ex-husband, Luc Besson, after he was accused of rape by several women.

Plenel recently told Variety, “She’s outspokenly anti-#MeToo and she made a gesture to please her world, and that’s why she bragged about it on TV. We could see a sort of pride that echoed that world.”

The director has made some unnerving comments about women in the past including, “These women don’t like men, that’s clear, and they’re causing very serious collateral damage,” and “When I hear women complaining that men are only interested in their bottom, I tell them, ‘Enjoy it because it won’t last!'”

Plene said that he was “traumatized” by the event, in which he said that, while he was eating in a restaurant, she approached him, grabbed his hair, spat in his face, and then left.

Yet Frémaux said that he saw showcasing Jeanne du Barry at the festival as “fair game” considering neither has been convicted of a crime. He said, “I don’t see Maïwenn’s film as a controversial choice at all. Because if Johnny Depp had been banned from working it would have been different, but that’s not the case.”

However, when asked why he wasn’t screening films by Roman Polanski, who literally cannot enter the U.S. after he was convicted in 1977 of raping a 13-year-old, or Woody Allen, who has been accused of assault by various women, including an incident that involved his stepdaughter in the early nineties, he seemed reluctant.

He said he hadn’t seen the new Polanski project The Palace, but had watched Allen’s upcoming film Coup de Chance. He explained that it wouldn’t be screened though because it would be too controversial. “The film was not a candidate. We also know that if his film is shown at Cannes, the controversy would take over against his film, against the other films.”

Making Brie Larson answer for it

Yet the choice to screen Depp’s film has had consequences. Brie Larson, who is part of the festival’s jury this year, was singled out during a press conference and asked how she felt about Depp’s new film and if she would be seeing it. After saying that she didn’t see the “correlation” of being asked the question, the journalist clarified that she was asked due to being a vocal advocate during Me Too. In response, she said that she didn’t know whether she would be watching it or how she would feel about doing so.

This has led to some accusing the reporter of asking her specifically with the hopes that she may say something negative about Depp and they would have a headline.

But then, if reporters aren’t asking ludicrous questions, they’re getting spat on. Or, apparently, being accused of not believing Cannes has a sexual predator problem in the first place.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Frémaux’s disgusting comments

Maïwenn is not the only apparently aggressively anti-Me Too figure at Cannes. Frémaux made some truly despicable comments leading up to this year’s festival in response to an open letter from French actress Adèle Haenel, who starred in Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which debuted at Canned in 2019.

In the letter, Haenel said she was leaving the film industry and condemned the “general complacency” toward sexual predators. She called out Cannes and other leading institutions for not being “ready to do anything to defend their rapist chiefs.”

Frémaux defended the festival by insulting Haenel and demonstrating a gross misunderstanding of what actresses and other women have to put up with in order to work, telling reporters, “She didn’t think that when she came to Cannes unless she suffered from a crazy dissonance.”

He also suggested that none of those reporters could agree with Haenel either, or they wouldn’t be there. “The proof is that if you believed it, you would not be here, listening to me now, taking your accreditations and complaining about the press screenings for a festival of rapists,” he said.

Misogyny is rife in Hollywood and the larger film and entertainment industries, even after the boom of Me Too, and even with campaigns and letters, I don’t think we’ll see real change until those at the top, especially men, open their damn mouths and actively do something about it. Maybe they could start by not showcasing films that are made by or with those who are known to be disgusting human beings or targeting those who speak out for a headline or two.

(featured image: Marc Piasecki/FilmMagic)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Brooke Pollock is a UK-based entertainment journalist who talks incessantly about her thoughts on pop culture. She can often be found with her headphones on listening to an array of music, scrolling through social media, at the cinema with a large popcorn, or laying in bed as she binges the latest TV releases. She has almost a year of experience and her core beat is digital culture.