Brie Larson Did Watch ‘Jeanne du Barry’ at Cannes

As the president of this year’s competition jury at the Cannes Film Festival, the director Ruben Ostlund had one key piece of wisdom to impart to his fellow jurors.

“Don’t be afraid to say something stupid,” he told them at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Ostlund, who skewered groupthink and pseudo-intellectual posturing in his films “The Square” and “Triangle of Sadness,” meant that the jurors should trust their first instincts instead of endeavoring to impress. “When you have a jury atmosphere where everybody is trying to top each other and be smarter than each other, then you’re missing out on something,” he said.

But his statement earned more than a few chuckles from the assembled journalists because the fear of saying something stupid is an ever-present danger at Cannes, where filmmakers, actors and festival organizers gather in a glamorous setting to tout their work and often stir up plenty of controversies along the way.

This year’s Cannes feels particularly front-loaded with scandal given the opening-night selection of “Jeanne du Barry,” a costume drama that stars Johnny Depp as the French king Louis XV. It’s Depp’s first high-profile role since he sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for defamation after she accused the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor of sexually and physically assaulting her during their marriage. He denied the allegations and said she was the attacker, an argument the jury largely agreed with. Though he was once one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors, the 59-year-old Depp has not starred in a major studio movie since the 2018 “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”

Asked about the decision to open Cannes with a film starring him, the festival director Thierry Fremaux was dismissive. “I don’t know about the image of Johnny Depp in the U.S.,” he said at a news conference on Monday. “To tell you the truth, in my life, I only have one rule — it’s the freedom of thinking.”

It’s unlikely that “Jeanne du Barry” will make a big splash stateside, since Depp’s performance is awfully muted and the French-language costume drama is still seeking American distribution. But its presence at Cannes still created a dilemma for the jury member Brie Larson, singled out when a Variety reporter asked if she would be willing to watch a film starring Depp, given that she used to be a member of the advisory board of Time’s Up, a group formed in response to the #MeToo movement.

“You’re asking me that?” Larson replied. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the correlation, or why me specifically.” Pressed again, she said tersely, “You’ll see, I guess, if I see it. And I don’t know how I’ll feel about it if I do.”

Later, at a glamorous dinner held at the Carlton Hotel, I chatted with Larson’s fellow juror Paul Dano, who confirmed that the panel did indeed watch “Jeanne du Barry” after participating in the festival’s opening ceremony. “It’s opening night, it’s the respectful thing to do,” Dano said.

“Jeanne du Barry” screened out of competition for the Palme d’Or and therefore isn’t part of the jury’s purview, but Dano still plans to say little when asked his opinion of the films at Cannes. “We don’t decide any prizes for two weeks, but we can’t talk to anybody else about the movies,” he said. “We all get to share a secret for two weeks.”

In the meantime, Dano was eager to bond with other jurors and see Cannes from a different perspective: After showing his directorial debut, “Wildlife,” at the festival in 2018, he was eager to return as a juror and felt considerably less pressure.

“Normally, if I’m getting ready for a premiere, I’m nervous or I don’t feel like I’m in my own skin,” he said. “But being here not with a film that you’re in or you directed is so much more fun.”

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