Maïwenn Lo Besco, director of the Cannes Film Festival’s Johnny Depp-starring opening film Jeanne du Barry, has admitted to assaulting a leading French journalist.
In a live TV interview promoting the film, the actress-director was quizzed about reports in April that Edwy Plenel, co-founder and editor-in-chief of investigative news website online Mediapart, had filed a complaint against her for assault.
According to French news reports a woman approached Plenel while he was lunching with his lawyer in a Paris restaurant, pulled back his head by his hair and then spat in his face. Restaurant staff identified the attacker as Maïwenn to Plenel.
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Maïwenn seemed unfazed by the question on the incident which came at the end of a good-natured 15-minute interview on nightly chat show Quotidien.
“Can you confirm? Can you say more?” asked presenter Yann Barthès.
“Can I confirm that I assaulted him, or that I received a complaint?” she replied.
“Both,” replied Barthès.
“I didn’t receive a complaint. I learned about it in the press,” she replied.
“And did you assault him?” he pressed.
“Yes,” she replied with a smile, laughing as she refrained from explaining why.
“Nice try, but it’s not the moment for me to talk about it. I’ll talk about it when it’s the right moment. I am very anxious about the launch of my film,” she said.
“You don’t want it to pollute your film. I understand,” replied Barthès
The presenter also asked Maïwenn if she had read French actress Adele Haenel’s open letter in the weekly TV magazine Télérama this week announcing she was leaving the film industry because of its “general complacency” towards sexual predators.
“I read it… I found it sad that she sees that world through that prism. It’s a bit too radical, even if I recognize at the same time that it was brave of her to speak,” said Maïwenn.
Jeanne du Barry is inspired by the life of Louis XV’s last royal mistress at the Court of Versailles, a lowly-born woman who used her intelligence and allure to rise up society, ruffling establishment feathers along the way.
Maïwenn, who co-stars and directs, said she had identified with the character for her rebellious nature, the fact she had left school very early on and for her rejection by the Court of Versailles.
Depp plays Louis XV. The film is being billed as the actor’s big-screen comeback movie after a three-year hiatus, while he battled his ex-wife Amber Heard in the courts, winning a defamation trial against her last summer.
He will also be using his time in Cannes to fire up finance for his Modigliani bio-pic, which announced casting this week.
“He was fantastic in the film. He was really invested. He speaks really good French and knows all of French history,” said Maïwenn.
Maïwenn recounted how she had travelled to London for a nine-hour meeting in the Peninsula Hotel to discuss the role.
“I gathered myself for five minutes beforehand to make sure I didn’t go in with ‘a groupie’ head but rather a director head, to really see if I could see him in the role. I only spoke French,” she recounted.
Maïwenn said she had offered Depp the role before both his trials with Heard and that the events of neither had made her question her decision.
“I didn’t hesitate… very quickly I said, he lost the first trial, he won the second. We could say it was one person’s word against another. I didn’t feel I had the right to judge.”
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