Johnny Depp addresses ‘sometimes tragic’ Hollywood career in award acceptance speech

Johnny Depp referred to his Hollywood career as “sometimes tragic” during an acceptance speech at the National Film Awards.

The 61-year-old Pirates of the Caribbean actor was honoured for his role in his comeback film Jeanne du Barry, a French historical drama that tracks the life of King Louis XV’s chief mistress, Jeanne Vaubernier, with Depp playing the king.

The film marks Depp’s first major role since winning his high-profile defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard in 2022.

While Jeanne du Barry has received mixed reviews, with The Independent’s film critic Clarisse Loughrey scoring it one star out of five, Depp was awarded the Global Contribution to Motion Picture award, and appeared in a pre-recorded message to accept it.

In the video played at Thursday night’s event in London (4 July), he began: “Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you today. I feel very lucky, and I feel very honoured that you – all of you – allow me to still continue to do the work that I love to do.”

“The work that I do is inspired by all of you who have been along on this long road and comprehended.”

He continued: “It’s always especially humbling when recognition for your endeavours comes directly from the hearts of the people, the hearts and minds who’ve joined me on this long mystical, magical, sometimes tragic – yet never boring journey.

“I can’t thank you all enough for continuing to allow me to tell the stories that I feel are necessary to be told. And for having stuck with me and my curious collection of characters over these many years.

Depp in his pre-recorded acceptance speech at the awards (National Film Awards)
Depp in his pre-recorded acceptance speech at the awards (National Film Awards)

He told fans they are the reason he still feels “the drive to keep pushing forward”.

“It’s only because of you that I’m here today,” he said. “I thank you and I send you much love and respect, always.”

Elsewhere at the awards ceremony, the Amy Winehouse biopic Back to Black took home Best Drama, while Adam Deacon won the Best Actor award for Sumotherhood, and Patricia Hodge was awarded Best Actress for her role in Arthur’s Whisky. The National Film Awards has been running in the UK for the past decade, as is part of the National Film Academy.

In The Independent’s review of Jeanne Du Barry, Loughrey wrote that Depp’s comeback performance is “so remarkably listless that his casting seems to serve no other purpose than to deliberately stoke controversy”.

Johnny Depp in ‘Jeanne du Barry’ (Stéphanie Branchu/Why Not Productions)
Johnny Depp in ‘Jeanne du Barry’ (Stéphanie Branchu/Why Not Productions)

Loughrey mentions the filmmaker behind the movie, Maïwenn, writing: “Maïwenn, who’s been critical of feminism and the #MeToo movement, shows no apparent interest in the relationship between power and sex, instead merely portraying Jeanne as an 18th-century pick-me girl – an au naturel free spirit in a court full of painted harpies. There isn’t a drop of subtlety here.”

The film was controversially chosen to open the Cannes Film Festival in 2023, and Depp received a seven-minute-long standing ovation from the crowd.

Maïwenn and Johnny Depp at the British premiere of their film ‘Jeanne du Barry’ (Neil P. Mockford/Getty Images)
Maïwenn and Johnny Depp at the British premiere of their film ‘Jeanne du Barry’ (Neil P. Mockford/Getty Images)

Cannes director Thierry Fremaux received backlash at the time for the decision to open the festival with Depp’s movie due to the allegations made against him by his ex-wife Heard in their defamation trial.

Depp ultimately won the trial after a jury found that Heard had defamed him by implying he had abused her in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed.

“We only know one thing, it’s the justice system and I think he won the legal case,” Fremaux said in response to the criticism last year.

Director Maïwenn – who also stars in the film – has also been embroiled in controversy after admitting to assaulting a journalist.